Feline Calicivirus (FCV) is a highly contagious viral infection caused by a virus from the Caliciviridae family. FCV causes Upper respiratory (eyes, nose, sinus, mouth, throat and tonsils) infection.
The virus has a global distribution and is known to survive in the environment for up-to a month.
The primary mode of transmission is by inhalation. Other ways of getting infected is from contaminated objects such as toys, furniture, bedding, food bowls.
Once in the body, the virus invades and colonizes the upper respiratory area. Clinical signs can be seen within 2 to 3 days. Ocular discharges, nasal discharges, sneezing, coughing and Pneumonia are the typical symptoms observed.
The infection is so common that all cats are prone to get affected at-least once in their lifetime. Younger cats especially kittens from 6 to 9 weeks are at high risk. Immunocompromized cats, cats with existing infections and diseases such as Feline Calicivirus (FCV) or Feline Herpes Virus (FHV, or FHV-1), senior cats, pregnant queens, cats living in high density pet areas, in areas which lacks basic hygiene and sanitation can catch the infection from sources.
FCV is caused by virus from the Caliciviridae family.
The primary mode of transmission is inhalation. Inhaling particles from contaminated materials such as food bowls, bedding, toys, furniture, from direct contact with nasal and ocular secretions, sneeze droplets, saliva, direct contact with infected pets, kennels, catteries, multi-pet household and from low immunity response (existing conditions involving the respiratory tract).
Clinical Signs & Symptoms
The incubation period for Feline Calicivirus is between 2 to 5 days. Some cats may not show symptoms but can pass on the infection to other non-infected cats.
Common symptoms seen are
› Gingivitis (Inflammation of the gums)
› Stomatitis (Inflammation of the mouth)
› Anorexia (Loss of Appetite)
› Pyrexia (Fever)
› Recurrent nasal discharges / runny nose
› Recurrent ocular discharges
› Rhinitis (sneezing)
› Dyspnea (Trouble Breathing)
› Tachypnea (Rapid Breathing Rate)
› Conjunctivitis (Inflammation of the eye)
› Ptyalism (Hyper-salivation or Drooling)
› Epistaxis (Nose Bleed)
› Mouth ulcers / Oral ulcers
In rare cases, it can lead to:
› Hepatitis (Inflammation of the liver)
› Bleeding from the nose
Veterinarians will require a complete history of your cat which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done with a combination of tests. These include routine lab examinations and special tests which can detect the presence of the virus. They are:
› Physical examination
› Bacterial culture test (by taking ocular and nasal discharge samples)
› PCR test (Polymerase Chain Reaction)
› Complete Blood Count (CBC)
› Biochemical profile
FCV can be successfully treated but this depends on the severity of the infection. Untreated FCV can progress to pneumonia and other secondary illnesses.
› Antibiotic medications
› Drugs to treat secondary illnesses and diseases
› Fluid therapy
› Use of IV fluids
› Cough suppressants
› Inhalant medications to ease breathing
› Antibacterial medications
› Constant and regular cleaning of nasal and ocular discharges with a damp wipe
› Anti-inflammatory medications (for joint pains, lameness, stiffness)
› Drugs to treat Conjunctivitis (eye drops / ophthalmic medications)
› Inhalant medications (to ease breathing)
FCV is a contagious viral respiratory infection with a global distribution. Vaccination is the single most effective way to prevent this from happening. A stronger immunity system can ward off the infection and will also help in a speedy recovery.
Home care should aim at improving the condition. Treatments can take a few days to weeks, depending on the severity. Cats usually recover within 8 to 12 days. If you observe any behavioral changes, or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian.
› Vaccinating your cat. Choice is generally nasal vaccines as they work faster.
› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your cat. Keep water and food bowls within reach. Avoid physical activity. Keep your cats away from any noise and commotions.
› You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicine as directed by your veterinarian.
› Do NOT travel with your cat.
› Do NOT allow your cat to roam freely. This works two ways, firstly if the cat is infected, it greatly reduces the chances of risk of exposure to other pets and humans and secondly in-case of a healthy pet, it reduces the chances of contracting the infection.
› Use of environmental disinfectants is recommended. Prompt disposal of any and all materials after use is suggested.
› Routine and regular checkups to access the progress, further tests may be advised this includes Liver and kidney function tests, blood tests. Monitor and administer all medications as directed by your veterinarian and complete the dosage.
› Humans, especially children, pregnant women and ones handling infected pets need to exercise caution. Wear gloves when dealing with a pet, cleaning the litter boxes, disposing any and all contaminated materials, garbage disposals etc. A thorough wash of hands is advised. Practice hygiene.
› There is high probability this infection can re-occur. Seek veterinarian advise post recovery on ways to prevent this from happening.
› Untreated FCV can progress into life threatening Pneumonia.