Herpesvirus Infection in Cats

June 1, 2024 6:44 pm Published by

Herpesvirus infection, also known as feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), is a common viral disease that affects cats worldwide. Caused by the feline herpesvirus type 1 (FHV-1), this contagious virus primarily affects the respiratory system but can also lead to ocular and systemic complications. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore herpesvirus infection in cats, covering its symptoms, treatment options, and preventive measures to keep your feline friend healthy and happy.

Understanding Herpesvirus Infection in Cats

Causes and Transmission

Feline herpesvirus type 1 (FHV-1) is responsible for causing herpesvirus infection in cats. The virus is highly contagious and spreads through direct contact with infected cats, contaminated objects, or secretions from the eyes, nose, and mouth.

Risk Factors

Several factors increase the risk of herpesvirus infection in cats, including:

  • Crowded Environments: Cats living in multi-cat households, shelters, or catteries are at higher risk due to increased exposure to the virus.
  • Stress: Stressful events such as changes in environment, overcrowding, or illness can weaken the immune system and make cats more susceptible to infection.
  • Young and Old Cats: Kittens and senior cats are more vulnerable to herpesvirus infection due to their developing or compromised immune systems.

Symptoms of Herpesvirus Infection

Respiratory Symptoms

The most common signs of herpesvirus infection in cats involve the respiratory system, including:

  • Sneezing
  • Nasal Discharge (Clear to Yellowish)
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Fever
  • Loss of Appetite

Ocular Symptoms

Herpesvirus infection can also affect the eyes, leading to:

  • Conjunctivitis (Redness and Swelling of the Eye)
  • Watery or Discharge
  • Squinting
  • Corneal Ulcers

Diagnosing Herpesvirus Infection

Veterinary Evaluation

If you suspect that your cat may have herpesvirus infection, it’s essential to seek veterinary care promptly. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination and may recommend additional diagnostic tests, such as:

  • Ocular Staining: To evaluate for corneal ulcers
  • PCR Testing: Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing can detect the presence of feline herpesvirus DNA in respiratory or ocular secretions.

Treatment Options

Symptomatic Treatment

There is no cure for herpesvirus infection in cats, so treatment focuses on managing symptoms and supporting the cat’s immune system. Symptomatic treatment may include:

  • Antiviral Medications: Antiviral drugs such as famciclovir or topical cidofovir may be prescribed to inhibit viral replication and reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.
  • Lysine Supplements: Lysine is an amino acid that can help suppress viral replication and reduce the frequency of flare-ups.
  • Supportive Care: Providing supportive care, such as humidification, nutrition support, and eye drops, can help alleviate respiratory and ocular symptoms.

Preventive Measures


Vaccination is an essential preventive measure against herpesvirus infection in cats. The feline herpesvirus vaccine is often included as part of the core vaccinations recommended for all cats, especially those at higher risk of exposure.

Environmental Management

Minimizing stress and maintaining a clean and hygienic environment can help reduce the risk of herpesvirus infection in cats. Key strategies include:

  • Stress Reduction: Provide a calm and stable environment, minimize changes in routine, and offer enrichment activities to reduce stress levels.
  • Hygiene Practices: Regularly clean and disinfect litter boxes, bedding, food and water bowls, and other communal areas to prevent the spread of the virus.


Herpesvirus infection is a common viral disease that affects cats of all ages, causing respiratory and ocular symptoms that can impact their health and well-being. While there is no cure for herpesvirus infection, prompt veterinary care, symptomatic treatment, and preventive measures such as vaccination and environmental management can help manage the condition and reduce the risk of transmission. By staying informed about the symptoms, treatment options, and preventive measures for herpesvirus infection in cats, you can provide the best possible care for your feline companion and ensure their continued health and happiness.

Need a Cat Veterinarian in Alexandria, VA?

Welcome to Kingstowne Cat Clinic! Kingstowne Cat Clinic is a locally owned, community focused cat clinic. We specialize in giving your feline friend the care they need. We offer wellness exams, surgery, dentistry, vaccinations, and acupuncture. We also provide sedated grooming and at home euthanasia. Kingstowne Cat Clinic is dedicated to providing quality medical and surgical care for all cats. Contact us today for an appointment!

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