As with people and other animals, cats are susceptible to cold and other viral lung infections. Colds in cats are known as feline upper respiratory diseases and are caused by calici virus, brocatelle bacteria and herpes virus. Though many of the infections may last only for a few days, some of these infections are recurring and difficult to get rid of. The more serious ones are akin to influenza or pneumonia in people.
How do cats catch a cold?
Cats can catch a cold or get flu from humans. There was a case of a cat being infected with swine flu after being in contact with an infected person. So if you have a cold it is best to wash your hands often.
Cats can pick up the infection from other cats. If you have more than one pet cat, it is best to keep them separate when one is infected.
Fungal infections aspergillosis and polyps can cause cold in cats.
They can also catch a cold from inhaling foreign objects like grass awns.
Most of the viruses are air or water borne and cats can catch a cold even when they are not in contact with other cats.
How do I know that my cat has caught a cold?
One of the first signs that a cat has caught cold is excessive sneezing. Watch out for discharges through the nose and the eyes. If there are discharges your cat has definitely been infected. If the sneezing is not excessive and there are no discharges, it is likely that the cold will go away in a few days. If there are discharges the cat needs good care at home and treatment by a veterinarian. In severe cases ulcers may develop in the eyes, the nose and the mouth.
Another easily noticeable symptom is lack of appetite. This may be caused because the nasal passage is blocked and the cat cannot smell the food. This and the lack of water can cause dehydration. Fever and open mouthed panting are some of the other symptoms that will tell you that the cat is infected. The cat may cough and swallow excessively too.
What do I do if my cat catches a cold?
As with colds that humans catch, viral infections in cats do not have a cure. The medication administered just helps the body defenses fight the cold while providing temporary relief.
The first thing that needs to be done is to clean the discharges from the nose and the eyes as often as possible by using moistened soft cloth, cotton or tissue papers and try to keep them clean. If you have a vaporizer, use it to increase the humidity in the house. Make sure that your cat eats well and drinks a lot of water, even if you have to coax it. Food and water in such cases is best served warm. Take it to the veterinarian.
The veterinarian will usually diagnose the infection through a simple physical examination and treat it with either oral or injected antibiotics. The veterinarian may himself use a vaporizer in a bid to help the cat breath more easily. He may treat the cat with either a nasal vaccine or a vaccine that can be injected to help fight the cold. The latter is usually more effective. If he feels that the infection is severe, blood tests and x-rays may have to be taken.
It the pet is dehydrated, hospitalization will be needed and intravenous fluids may have to be injected. In some cases supplemental oxygen is administered. Appetizers and vitamin B may also be used to improve the cat’s appetite.
Once the cat is discharged from the hospital it is equally important to take care of the pet at home. The nasal passage and the eyes should be kept clean. Antibiotics should be administered as directed by the veterinarian. Warm food and water should be given to the cat at regular intervals.
A close eye has to be kept on the pet for some time after recovery. If the symptoms recur after a period of time, the cat will need immediate medical attention. Some infections like the herpes virus, are chronic, and are difficult to get rid of. Such infections will need regular treatment even possibly for a lifetime.
There are vaccinations that can be administered to cats that will make the immune to viral infections. After the first vaccination cats need regular boosters to remain immune to infections.