Cats sometimes get swollen and runny eyes. They can have this with a cough or sniffles that suggests something more serious than simple conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is commonly caused by a group of viruses known as the Feline Viral Respiratory Disease Complex. This can be a serious health risk for cats and needs to be treated immediately, especially if your cat is a kitten.
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The Feline Viral Respiratory Disease Complex viruses are contagious, spread through the air, contaminated litter boxes and food and water bowls or on clothing or hands of people. Sometimes called "kitty colds," these viruses can cause up to 50 per cent mortality rate among kittens. Adult cats can often weather these infections.
Typical signs of these infections include swollen eyelids, runny eyes and nose, discharge from your cat's nose and mouth, sneezing, coughing and ulcers on the cornea or in the mouth. These illnesses can last 1 to 10 days.
There are several types of viruses your cat can catch. One is the feline herpes virus group, which causes Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis. The feline herpes viruses characteristically cause a spastic cough and runny, swollen eyes with the possibility of causing corneal ulcers.
Another type of virus group comes from the Feline Calicivirus group, which causes Feline Calici Viral Disease. Calicivirus is more likely to cause ulceration of the mouth, drooling, pneumonia, watery eyes and secondary bacteria infections, which may affect the eyes, causing yellow or green discharge.
Both the feline herpes virus and feline calcivirus account for approximately 80 to 90 per cent of all respiratory infections. Because kittens are particularly susceptible to these diseases, these viruses can quickly kill a large number of kittens in a cattery or shelter. Adult cats are more likely to survive these infections but become carriers of the disease. These cats can continue to infect other cats the rest of their lives.
Bring your cat to the veterinarian for diagnosis and possible treatment. Treatment may include medications to prevent secondary infections. Cats infected with these viruses are highly contagious to other cats. The sick cat needs to rest and be encouraged to eat and drink to prevent dehydration and weakening. Feeding palatable food or baby food (without garlic added) will hopefully encourage the cat to eat. Keep your cat warm and use a vaporiser to help your cat breath.
If the cat is not eating or drinking you must bring the cat to your veterinarian for IV fluids and feedings.
You can prevent your cat from contracting these diseases through vaccinations, which will help keep your cat safe from these diseases should your cat come in contact with infected cats.
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