What should I do about upper respiratory infection in cats?

Feline upper respiratory infections are what happens when a virus infects the trachea, throat, or nose of the cat (as opposed to the lungs). It's pretty rare for cats to get lung infections, so if your cat is sick from this it is likely an upper respiratory infection.


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What are the symptoms?

The symptoms can be pretty broad. General symptoms of sickness such as coughing, seeing the cat sneezing, discharge from the cat's nose, sniffling, or a hoarse sounding meow are all common. If you've got a thermometer you might also check for a fever.

What cats are likely to get these infections?

Most indoor cats won't ever be exposed to this. There are, however, high-risk cats that are more likely to get it. These include:

1) Outdoor cats - because they are in contact with many other cats and thus tend to get diseases from them

2) Kittens - because they are young and their immune systems don't function as well until they are older

3) Older cats - because they are old and their immune systems are wearing down

4) Persian cats - They have a predisposition to get these kinds of diseases

5) Sickly cats - Cats that have other diseases or a history of sickness can be more vulnerable.

What causes it?

There are a number of viruses that can cause it. Two to watch out for are feline herpes and the cat equivalent of "kennel cough" in dogs. They can cause more serious problems in the long run, while most of the others will just go away if you treat them like you would a normal cold or illness.

What is the treatment in cats?

 First off, many cats will get vaccinated against these. If your cat isn't sick yet, this is something to consider doing. You can get vaccinations against feline herpes and against calcivirus, which cause the vast majority of upper respiratory infections in cats.

However, you probably came here because your cat is already sick, so that is something to put off until your cat gets better to keep it from happening again. Your vet will likely prescribe medicine for you and decide whether the cat should go home or be hospitalized. In serious cases, and where the cat has stopped eating, it will need to stay with the vet. If not, your vet will give you antibiotics (they don't do anything against the virus, but they stop bacteria from taking advantage of the situation and making the cat worse). There are also some general immune system boosters your vet may give you.

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