Feline Herpes Virus

Feline Herpes virus is very common in HK. In my experience, most cats actually do pick up this infection, usually as kittens and will carry the virus for the rest of there lives. The virus ( Feline Herpes Virus type 1) causes the symptoms we see in the disease Feline Rhinotracheatis. This is just a complex medical term for cat flu. Other pathogens that cause cat flu are Calicivirus and Chlamydia. By far the most common cause of cat flu in HK is caused by Herpes virus type1.

The symptoms we see are most common and severe in kittens and cats with compromised immune systems (stress and other viral infections). Mild symptoms may just be seen as sneezing and runny eyes but this can deteriorate to severe eye infections and ulcerations with the possible loss of an eye. In very young kittens, permanent eye and eyelid damage may result. Also, severe nasal congestion, fever, pneumonia, dehydration and anorexia.

Depending on how severe the disease, we may treat your cat as an outpatient with special antibiotics and immune stimulation or if severe we will need to hospitalise him. You will also need to apply antiviral eye drops a few times each day.  
The basis of treatment is to help the cats own immune system control the infection and also prevent any other secondary infections. With this disease they can lose their appetite easily because they can't smell their food and also can become dehydrated very quickly. We can use special drugs to stimulate their appetite and if really necessary insert a special feeding tube and iv fluids.

The routine vaccination that your kitten has will provide protection against herpes virus. It is important to note that many kittens have already contracted the virus by the time the they are presented for vaccination. Also once a cat is infected, it will carry herpes virus for life and this virus may express itself occasionally during the cats life in times of stress. The vaccine will not prevent the disease, but will help alleviate the symptoms.