Rhinotracheitis Virus Infection (Rhinitis)
Cold and flu season is still spreading (and hopefully reaching its peak) with humans, but did you know cats can get colds, too? Cat colds, or Rhinotracheitis Virus Infection (Rhinitis), might be more familiar to you as feline herpesvirus 1 or FHV-1 (the virus that often causes rhinitis in cats).
Rhinitis is an upper respiratory infection
meaning the nose and throat rather than the lungs which often leads to secondary infections, usually in the eyes. What’s interesting is that it maps pretty well onto human illness, so if you’re on top of your own health you can recognize and help out your feline friends.
Symptoms of Rhinitis
Sinus drainage, postnasal drip, runny nose, congestion, facial pain. Most people with acute sinusitis or Rhinitis start with cold symptoms that get worse after a few days. With Rhinitis, you may have throbbing pain in your head, and your fever may be higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit. You might also have increased mucus production and General malaise.
These symptoms usually start to improve within a week or so with the proper sinus flood procedure. However, if sinusitis is left untreated, it can lead to more serious complications, such as a sinus infection or meningitis. If you think you might have sinusitis, it’s important to see a doctor so they can properly diagnose and treat your condition.
Just like humans, an otherwise healthy cat can be an asymptomatic carrier of FHV-1. That means being around other cats, even ones in your own home, is the main risk factor, but that risk factor is mitigated by the same principles. A healthy diet, good/quiet places to rest both inside and outside, ways to destress/exercise, and good sanitation (change cat litter as often as you’re able, sweep/clean the area it’s in, and keep things generally tidy). Cat cold symptoms are pretty similar to human symptoms with sneezing, nasal discharge (AKA runny nose), fever, malaise, and loss of appetite with the addition of a high risk of eye infection (more discharge, redness, twitching, or keeping it closed). A vet can help you determine what’s wrong by going over your history, and symptoms, and even taking samples. With care, cats usually get better in a week or so. (Again, care looks a lot like what you would want: provide them some comfort and undisturbed rest, a healthy meal, and follow any additional directions your vet gives).
And here’s a really big “just like humans”: the same things that weaken our immune systems and make us more prone to illness apply to cats. Being very old or young, stress, poor diet, or another condition (pregnancy, a chronic illness, or new/unhealed injury) increases their risk of getting ill. You can support their immune system just like you do your own with a small amount of colloidal silver in their water bowl (and for outdoor cats, it can even help keep it a bit more fresh).