Gunk in the eyes? Runny nose? Feline Herpes Virus (FHV-1) is one of the most common causes of upper respiratory infection and eye problems in cats. While similar to the human herpes virus, it cannot be passed from feline to human or other species. That being said, once it is in the system it stays there for life. Like the virus in humans, it can be active and go into remission throughout the cat’s life.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for the virus. However, some therapies are available that may help relieve symptoms in an infected cat. The first step is to determine if that is the cause of your cat’s symptoms. The best way for your veterinarian to diagnose this virus is by knowing your cat’s history.
Treatment will depend on active symptoms. Swelling of the eyelids and irritation of the cornea may be treated with topical eye medications such as topical antiviral or anti-bacterial drugs. It is important that eye problems are treated early and aggressively to avoid permanent damage to the eyes.
Additional therapies may be recommended, depending on your cat or kitten’s current level of symptoms. Because this virus can spread and cause irritation to the skin surrounding the eyes it is very important to take your cat in at the first signs of eye irritation.
Your veterinarian will coach you on immediate as well as long term therapies.
Vaccines are available to help protect against the virus, however, many kittens are exposed to the virus by their mothers before they are old enough to vaccinate. While vaccination prevents neither infection or the development of the carrier state, it may reduce the severity of the disease and is still utilized.
Symptoms of FHV-1 are Fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, nasal discharge, selling and redness around the eye and/or discharge from the eye.
It is important to take your cat or kitten in for a thorough check up if any of these symptoms show up. These symptoms can also represent bacterial infections which are easily cured with antibiotics.
Regular wellness visits help your veterinarian to know your cat well. This makes diagnosing new symptoms much easier.