What is Feline Herpes Virus?

To clarify, feline herpesvirus isn’t a sexually transmitted disease. It’s a virus infection that is similar to the human virus that causes cold sores. Feline herpesvirus most commonly affects the eyes, the respiratory tract and the gastrointestinal tract. Rarely, feline herpesvirus can potentially affect the skin, the reproductive tract, and the musculoskeletal tract.

Incubation period?
In cats, clinical signs can be seen within 2-5 days of exposure to the virus.

What is the symptom of the Feline Herpes Virus?

The most common clinical signs seen from the feline herpes virus include: 

  • Sneezing
  • Runny eyes
  • Pink eyelids (e.g., conjunctivitis)
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Not eating/anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Drooling
  • Dehydration
  • Increased respiratory effort
  • Loud, snoring-like breathing
  • Severe ulcers on the eyes (less common)
  • Rupture of the cornea (rare)
  • Lameness (rare)
  • Dermatitis
  • Death (rare)

 

How long does the Feline Herpesvirus live in the environment?
The virus prefers damp environments but even so, can only remain active for 18 hours on a surface without a host and an even shorter period of time as an aerosol.

 

What disinfectant kills feline herpesvirus? 
Virucidal activities of several disinfectants against FHV, compared with feline calicivirus (FCV), were studied and the following conclusions were reached:
1) Sodium hypochlorite, iodine complex, benzethonium chloride and chlorhexidine were effective against FHV at commonly used concentrations. The virus is labile and susceptible to most disinfectants, antiseptics and detergents.

 

What kills Feline herpesvirus?
 A very common antiviral medication taken by mouth in cats to kill the herpes virus is called famciclovir. It has limited side effects and is most often used when cats have one of the more uncommon conditions, such as keratitis, stomatitis or dermatitis.

 

Is feline herpes contagious to other cats?
 Herpes is a highly contagious virus; many kittens are infected by their mothers early in life. Symptomatic cats that are housed with other cats will infect each other easily, which is why it is very common in both shelter cats and cats obtained by a breeder.
Can feline herpes be transmitted through clothing?
 People can transmit the virus from one cat to another on their hands and clothing.
All cats are susceptible but especially those stressed by their environment or another disease.
 
Can humans give cats herpes?
 No. Humans and dogs are not at risk for catching feline herpes, and cats cannot catch the strains of herpes that humans carry.
 
Can cats be vaccinated against feline herpes?
 Vaccination recommendations: Two injections, at 9 and 12 weeks of age, are recommended, with a first booster 1 year later. Boosters should be given annually to at-risk cats.
 
 
What percentage of cats have herpes?
 As many as 80 to 90 percent of cats are estimated to have feline herpes-1, also called feline rhinotracheitis virus. For some unknown reason, it appears as a symptom in some cats, perhaps those with weakened immune systems. Often kittens are born with it, passed from their mothers.

How long does it take for a cat to recover from Feline Herpes?
The active infection with herpes virus typically lasts 10 to 20 days. The symptoms of feline herpes virus look very similar to several other upper respiratory infections, but herpes calling card is conjunctivitis.


How can I treat Feline Herpes?

  • Quarantine: Keep infected cats in quarantine due to the contagious nature of this disease.
  • Nursing care: If your cat is showing signs of nasal or eye, make sure to keep your cat kept free of discharge. Blot away any discharge with a damp paper towel or terry cloth rag. This is important to help prevent the nostrils from being blocked up from nasal crusting.
  • Moisture: Take your cat into the bathroom while you’re taking a hot shower (Note: NOT into the shower, but into the bathroom). This way, the steam can help humidify the nasal passages and make your cat breathe better.
  • Tasty food: With the herpes virus, your cats can eat whatever they want! Try to tempt your cat to eat with tasty canned tuna (in water), meat-based human baby food or any kind of tasty canned food.
  • Seek veterinary attention: If you notice abnormal squinting, tearing, redness to the eyes, drooling, not eating, etc., get to a veterinarian immediately!
    That’s because corneal ulcers or conjunctivitis may need topical antibiotic ointments (e.g., Terramycin, oxytetracycline, erythromycin, etc.). Topical, ophthalmic anti-viral ointments can also be used (e.g., cidofovir, etc.). In severe cases, where a secondary bacterial infection occurs (e.g., pus coming from the eyes or nostrils), oral antibiotics may be necessary (just like human colds, viruses typically don’t need antibiotics initially). Keep in mind that antibiotics can often cause cats to lose their appetite, or develop vomiting and diarrhoea.
 
How can I prevent an outbreak?
 For both people and cats, L-lysine is a way to manage and control herpes effectively.
This amino acid is present in every cat's body, but some cats do not have enough of it to ward off infections and illnesses. 
Lysine is given by mouth in the form of a powder, crushed tablet, chewable tablet, or paste/gel.
Mix the powder in a small amount of food unless otherwise directed.
This medication can take up to a few weeks before full effects are noted, but gradual improvements are usually noticeable after a few days.

Make sure to keep the stress level down, make sure that you do not have to many cats, make sure that you got a stable group of cats, aviod things that might cause stress.

 

Sources:
https://www.viroxanimalhealth.com/hubfs/VAH_Resources_/PDFs/Factsheet_FelineHerpesvirus_April2016.pdf?hsLang=en-ca
https://www.vetspecialty.com/feline-herpesvirus-fhv-1/
https://www.greatpetcare.com/cat-health/feline-herpes/
https://www.medicinenet.com/pets/cat-health/feline_herpes_symptoms_and_treatment.htm
https://www.postandcourier.com/features/herpes-virus-in-cats-highly-contagious-a-major-problem/article_6302b796-8f78-5f1c-a9ff-5480ed9b47ff.html
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19481034/
https://pets.webmd.com/cats/feline-herpes-symptoms-treatment
https://www.nomnomnow.com/learn/article/what-is-l-lysine-and-how-can-it-help-your-cat
https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/lysine
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6281040/
https://www.pethealthnetwork.com/cat-health/cat-diseases-conditions-a-z/feline-herpesvirus-101-fhv

B
y: Malin Sundqvist