Although cats do not get colds, they do suffer from upper respiratory infections. These kind of infections are seen mostly commonly in shelter cats, barn cats and outdoor stray cats. Although any cat can contract these diseases, kittens are at higher risk as their immune systems are not yet developed to fight off disease. Purebred cats such as Persians have a greater problem with chronic upper respiratory tract infections due to their pushed in faces and the fact that due to inbreeding they do not have great immune systems.
These upper respiratory tract infections are mostly caused by 2 viruses: feline calcivirus and feline herpes virus. Sometimes bacteria such as Bordetella, Chlamydia or Mycoplasma can cause secondary problems. Kittens are frequently infected with more than one agent. These poor cats have runny, goopy eyes, runny noses, sneezing, coughing, oral or nasal ulcer and may run fevers. The virus is easily spread from cat to cat by objects or the cats themselves. A dilute bleach solution will kill both viruses in the environment.
Diagnosis of URT Infections
Most cats will get over these infections in 5 to 10 days and suffer only mild symptoms. If the cat loses his appetite, has open mouth breathing or runs a fever, he needs immediate veterinary attention. Many times supportive care such as fluids or liquid diets and decongestant nose drops are used. If the viral infection is complicated by a bacterial infection or if the cat shows signs of pneumonia, an antibiotic is often used.
Holistic treatments for cats with Upper Respiratory Tract Infections include a good homemade diet with smelly food, probiotic and immune support herbs such as Echinacea. One good respiratory tract herbal to use is Throat Gold by Pet Wellbeing. L-lysine which is now available in treat form for cats has been excellent for kittens and cats with herpes virus infection. Sometimes herpes infections can cause lifetime problems for cats giving them chronic runny noses or oral ulcer or intermittent eye infections. The L-lysine has proven very important for these cats.
Some of these diseases, particularly the viral diseases, can be prevented by vaccination. After 1 vaccination most adults have life long immunity to these diseases. If you have questions about this be sure to talk to your holistic veterinarian.