Pet Quarterly Spring 2013 : Page 14

Pet tales Feline herpes: it’s not a disease of Promiscuous tomcats Pet tales by Laci Schaible, DVm if you have ever been told that your cat has herpes, don’t assume your pet has been prowling the city streets for some after-hours activities. Herpesvirus is quite common in cats, but it causes a different disease complex entirely than the herpesvirus that people can get. Chances are, your innocent feline will be exposed to feline herpesvirus type 1 (FHV-1), also known as feline viral rhinopneumonitis (FVR), at some point in its life, most likely as a kitten when its immune system is not at its peak performance. stress is a trigger In cats, the herpesvirus typically results in eye problems, though it can trigger upper respiratory signs as well, such as sneezing and conjunctivitis. Herpes infections in cats are sporadic and are triggered by stress—adjusting to a new home, being boarded, or even their owners packing a suitcase is enough to bring on an outbreak for some cats. As far as viral infections go, feline herpesvirus is a rather contagious one. The virus is easily spread through contact with discharge from an infected cat’s eyes, mouth or nose, or simply by sharing infected litter boxes, food and water dishes. The good news is that humans and dogs are not at risk for catching feline herpes, and cats cannot catch the strains of herpes that humans carry. Herpesvirus infection is the most common cause of conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva, or tissues lining the inner eyelids and whites of the eye) in cats. Many cats are infected with the virus and do not show any signs of clinical illness, making them carriers of this virus. Does your cat have herpesvirus? Squinting and other eye problems are often symptoms of the diseases. Luckily, in most cases, herpesvirus conjunctivitis will resolve within a couple weeks. symptoms: squinting and sneezing When it does not resolve, the most common clinical signs of the resulting conjunctivitis are squinting or closing of the eye; red, swollen tissue surrounding the eye and eyelids; eye discharge that may range from clear to yellow-greenish in color; and those pesky upper respiratory infection symptoms such as sneezing or nasal discharge. These signs often appear suddenly and are especially common after stressful situations. There is no cure for herpes and diagnosis is usually presumptive, but the therapeutic goal is to reduce the frequency and severity of recurrences. The best defense is to: minimize the chance of infection, feed a premium diet, reduce stressful situations, properly vaccinate against preventable causes and supplement the diet daily with L-lysine, an amino acid used to decrease the severity of symptoms caused by feline herpesvirus. L-lysine is an over-the-counter supplement that is available in many forms. I have found the easiest way is treats with L-lysine in them. Before starting any nutritional supplement, make sure your veterinarian first thinks herpes is probable and that your cat is a good candidate for L-lysine therapy. As with herpes in people, a little bit of prevention goes a long way, so make sure your feline socializes only with herpes-free kitties. 14 Spring 2013 | Pet Quarterly

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