Pet Care Corner: Treating feline flu (snuffle) in cats



Feline flu in felines is also known as sniffle, feline flu, or viral upper respiratory disease, but for this article we’ll call its most common name – sniffle.

Boksburg SPCA manager Maggie Mudd answers a few questions about sniffing.

Endangered cats

Sniffing is a highly contagious disease that is often found in multi-cat homes, shelters, and in some cases, breeding catteries – in fact any environment where there is a high density of cat populations.

It can be rampant among feral cats for this very reason.

Kittens (less than 12 months old) that have not been vaccinated are at high risk of contracting this disease, as are older cats.

What are the symptoms?

These can vary from cat to cat, and kittens and older cats are usually more affected, but the general symptoms are as follows:

• Loss of appetite and lethargy

• High temperature (fever)

• Persistent sneezing

• Inflamed, red and swollen eyes

• Watery discharge from the nose and eyes – as the disease progresses, this discharge becomes thicker

• Difficulty breathing due to blocked and crusted nostrils

• To cough

It is very important that any kitten or cat exhibiting any of the above symptoms is isolated, away from other healthy cats, and taken urgently to a veterinarian.

How is sniffing spread?

When a sniffling cat sneezes, the virus diffuses into the air and can then be inhaled by healthy cats.

Cats that survive sniffles can become what are called “carriers” of the disease; and although they no longer seem to be sick, if they become stressed for any reason then they can shed the virus and this can still infect other healthy cats.

Owners who touch a cat with sniffles and then handle another healthy cat can also spread this disease, and clothing and hands can play a major role in the spread of the disease.

Infected cats who share litter, bowls, or even toys with healthy cats may also be at risk of transmitting the virus.

What should I do if I think my cat is sniffling?

Take the cat to your vet immediately and, depending on the severity of the symptoms your cat is exhibiting, the vet will most likely prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic to treat secondary bacterial infections.

They may emit eye ointment or drops to treat the eye infection and saline eye drops to clean the scabs on the eyes.

The infected cat should be isolated from all other cats to prevent the spread of the virus. The sick cat should be kept hydrated. If the sick cat is not eating or drinking, the vet may decide to put him on an intravenous drip to make sure he is receiving the necessary fluids.

Will my cat get better when sniffing?

If the cat is diagnosed correctly early and is treated immediately, there is a good chance of recovery.

However, the death rate in kittens and older cats who contract this virus is high, and prevention is always better than cure – and much cheaper – so talk to your vet about the vaccinations needed for your kittens or cats as soon as possible.


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