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Feline Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (URTI)

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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Treatment

Severely ill cats may be treated in the hospital however because of the contagious nature of the disease, your cat may be treated on an outpatient basis. Most cats begin to feel better in 10 to14 days with some cats showing great improvement in just five to seven days. Since there is no specific treatment aimed at destroying the virus, treatment is aimed at maintaining the overall health of your cat and making him feel better.

  • Diet. Because of congestion, your cat may have difficulty smelling food and might refuse to eat. Offer a variety of aromatic diets or warm the food to help increase the smell and encourage eating. If your pet does not eat enough, you may have to administer liquid or soft food with an oral syringe. The amount of food your cat will need each day is based on his current appetite and weight. Your veterinarian can give you guidelines on how to offer food with a syringe and how much to offer.

    There are also medications available to help stimulate the appetite. Your veterinarian may prescribe cyproheptadine, Diazepam (Valium®) has been used in the past but it not currently recommended due to potential liver toxicity. Your cat may also need supplemental potassium or vitamin B complex.

  • Fluids. Your cat may also refuse to drink and can easily become dehydrated. You can offer fluids by syringe but this usually is not sufficient. Your veterinarian may want to administer fluids subcutaneously.

  • Decongestants. If your cat has significant nasal congestion, he may benefit from Afrin®, a nasal decongestant. Placing one drop in each nostril twice daily can help reduce some congestion. However, most cats do not tolerate this very well.

  • Antibiotics. Your veterinarian will likely prescribe antibiotics in order to prevent secondary bacterial infections. Most commonly used are Clavamox®, cefadroxil, cephalex, doxycycline, amoxicillin, and cephalosporins.

  • Eye ointments. Your cat may suffer from eye problems such as excessive discharge or corneal ulcers. Typically, tetracycline based ointments work well to alleviate this problem. Antiviral eye ointments are also available, but because of high cost, these are reserved for use in severe cases.

  • Hospitalization. If your cat has severe symptoms or doesn't respond to outpatient treatment, he may need to be hospitalized, where he can receive intravenous fluids and frequent nebulization. This is a process to humidify the air and keep nasal passages moist. A temporary feeding tube may also be needed if your cat is unwilling to eat and resistant to syringe feeding.

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