Feline Herpesvirus (FHV-1)

Feline Herpes Virus is a highly contagious viral infection caused by Herpesvirus type-1 from the Herpesviridae family. It is one of the most common causes of upper respiratory (eyes, nose, sinus, mouth, throat and tonsils) infections (URI) in cats. Herpesvirus type-1 is species specific, which means other species and humans cannot get the infection from cats. It is also known as Feline Rhinotracheitis (FVR), Feline Herpesvirus Type 1 (FHV-1).

Transmission happens from inhalation from virus infected and contaminated objects, toys, furniture, bedding, food bowls etc. Once in the body, this virus invades and colonizes the upper respiratory area. Clinical signs can be seen within 2 to 3 days such as ocular discharges, nasal discharges, sneezing, coughing and Pneumonia.

This virus can survive for up-to a month and thrives in moist, humid, damp and wet environments. Because of its global presence, all cats will gets affected at-least once in their lifetime.

Younger cats (Kittens aging 6 to 9 weeks, with growing immunity) are at high risk, immunocompromised cats, senior cats, pregnant queens, cats with pre-existing conditions like Feline Calicivirus (FCV) or Feline Herpes Virus (FHV, or FHV-1), cats living in unhygienic or contaminated environments are susceptible to this disease. Stress is also known to trigger Herpes Virus.


Feline Herpes Virus is caused by Herpesvirus type-1 from the Herpesviridae family. 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, mutual grooming, infected pregnant queens to her kittens, Stress, multi-pet household and from low immunity response (existing conditions involving the respiratory tract).

Clinical Signs & Symptoms

The incubation period for FHV-1 is 2 to 5 days. Some cats may not show symptoms but can pass on the infection to other non-infected cats.

Common symptoms include:
› Depression
› Lethargy
› Anorexia (Loss of Appetite)
› Pyrexia (Fever)
› Recurrent nasal discharges or runny nose
› Recurrent ocular discharges
› Rhinitis (sneezing)
› Ptyalism (Hyper-salivation or Drooling)
› Dyspnea (Trouble Breathing)
› Tachypnea (Rapid Breathing Rate)
› Coughing
› Congestion
› lymphadenitis (swelling of lymph nodes)
› Abortion (Loss of pregnancy)
› Blepharospasm (excessive blinking)
› Keratitis (Inflammation of the cornea)


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)
› Urinalysis
› Complete Blood Count (CBC)
› Biochemical profile


FHV-1 can be successfully treated but this depends on the severity of the infection. Untreated FHV-1 can progress to pneumonia and other secondary illnesses.
Treatment include:
› 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)


FHV-1 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

FHV-1 causes upper respiratory infection (URI) in cats. Home care should aim at improving the condition. Treatments can take a few days upto 2 weeks. 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. Do not allow your pet to go through garbage bins, water sources, fecal infected areas.
› 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. 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 FHV can progress into life threatening Pneumonia.

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