Echinacea for Feline Herpes

Written by emily jacobson
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Echinacea for Feline Herpes
Echinacea supplements may help boost your cat's immune system. (cat image by nutech21 from

The feline herpes virus causes mild to severe upper respiratory infections in cats. Under the supervision of a veterinarian, Echinacea may be safely administered to cats to help reduce the duration and severity of the symptoms of feline herpes virus infection.

What is Echinacea?

Echinacea may refer to any of nine different species of coneflowers that are native to the United States, or may refer specifically to Echinacea purpurea, the purple coneflower. According to a fact sheet published by Medline Plus, there is limited evidence showing that herbal preparations of Echinacea can reduce the duration and severity of upper respiratory infections in humans. It is traditionally believed that Echinacea works by stimulating the immune system, which helps to fight off infections.

What is Feline Herpes Virus?

The feline herpes virus (FHV) may also be called rhinotracheitis, feline herpes virus-1 (FHV-1), feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), feline rhinotracheitis virus (FRV) or the common term, cat flu. This virus causes upper respiratory infections by attacking a cat's nose, throat and eyes.

The Winn Feline Foundation reports the following symptoms of feline herpes virus infection: severe sneezing, a fever, depression or lethargy, loss of appetite, thick discharge from the nose and possibly around the eyes. Echinacea is given to cats during the active phase of a feline herpes virus infection to help lessen the duration and severity of the symptoms.

Feline Herpes and the Immune System

According to the Winn Feline Foundation, the best way to prevent feline rhinotracheitis is an annual vaccination against the virus. However, once a cat is infected, he becomes a chronic carrier of the virus, only showing symptoms of the disease when immune compromised or under stress. Echinacea may be given when a cat is under stress to help strengthen the immune system and prevent symptoms of the disease.

Treating Cats With Echinacea

An article published by Dr. Shoen Holistic Animal Care recommends administering Echinacea in a powder form or as a tincture mixed into water or food. Human doses are too high for cats and will need to be reduced to match the weight of your cat. According to the Herb Research Foundation, Echinacea loses its immune-promoting effectiveness with long term use and should be discontinued after 6 - 8 weeks. Treatment may be started again at a later date.

When to Avoid Echinacea

A Medline Plus fact sheet reports that Echinacea treatments are inappropriate for human patients with immune system disorders such as HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, and rheumatological diseases. Theoretically, Echinacea treatments would also be inappropriate for cats with feline leukaemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), or feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). Echinacea's ability to stimulate the immune system may also interfere with drugs that suppress the immune system and should not be used if a cat is being treated with a steroid, such as prednisone.

Some humans are allergic to Echinacea and will develop a rash or stomach disorders while using the herb. If your cat is scratching or showing other signs of discomfort after receiving Echinacea, discontinue use.

Visit Your Vet

If your cat is showing symptoms of feline herpes virus, he should be examined by a veterinarian. Any herbal medications should be discussed with a qualified veterinarian before being administered to your pet.

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