Achoo! Could It Be Feline Calicivirus?

Supportive Treatment

The virus will typically run its course for seven to 10 days. But infected cats can shed the virus for two to three weeks, so cats can be infectious to other cats and should be isolated. There is no specific treatment for the virus itself, but antibiotics and other medications may help address secondary infections and complications associated with the virus.

Treatment depends on the severity of disease, and your veterinarian can determine the best approach. Cats with only upper respiratory signs may require antibiotics, as well as gentle cleaning of the eyes and nose with a wet tissue or cotton ball. Periodically placing your cat in a warm, humidified environment, such as the bathroom during hot showers, can help to break up the nasal congestion.

Cats with significant nasal congestion may have a decreased sense of smell. Since this can lead to a loss of appetite, a highly palatable food may help improve their food intake. Those with severe respiratory signs or other complications most likely require hospitalization for intensive care. If oral ulcers are present, pain medication and a soft diet may be recommended.

Help Prevent Infection

If your cat is current with her vaccines, she has likely been vaccinated against calicivirus. Although the vaccine can’t completely prevent your cat from getting disease, it usually helps reduce signs if your cat is exposed to calicivirus. This is similar to people who receive the flu vaccine. They are vaccinated against the known flu virus; however, they can still contract the virus but will typically not get as sick as someone who has not been vaccinated.

Most veterinarians begin vaccinating kittens at about 6 to 8 weeks of age, followed by boosters every three to four weeks until the kitten is around 16 weeks of age. Boosters are usually given every one to three years after that, but your veterinarian will discuss the recommended vaccine schedule for your cat. Although vaccines are available that may help provide broader protection against other strains of calicivirus, such as the virulent systemic strain, they are generally used in shelters, where cats may be at a higher risk.

If you have any questions about calicivirus and your cat’s risk of infection, please have a conversation with your family veterinarian.

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