What is it?
• Feline Upper Respiratory Infection Complex (URI) is highly contagious and occurs when the cat is infected with one or more viruses and bacteria.
• The disease is prevalent in shelters, catteries, and multi-cat households.
• Kittens are predisposed to the infection due to immature immune systems.
What causes it?
• The most commonly involved agents are Feline Herpesvirus 1, Feline Calcivirus, Chlamydia, Bordetella, and certain bacteria species.
• The disease develops from a single agent, or several (called a mixed infection).
• The infection can be transmitted from cat-to-cat through direct contact with infected cat, sneezing, coughing, grooming, or sharing food and water bowls.
• Clinical signs include nose and eye discharge, lethargy, decreased appetite, conjunctivitis, sneezing, coughing, depression, eye squinting, oral ulcers, and fever.
• Once infected, cats can become carriers for life, and though they may not show clinical signs, they can still transmit the virus to other cats.
What tests are needed?
• Clinical signs often establish a diagnosis, especially if the cat has recently been in contact with others who are infected.
• In cats with more severe cases, laboratory tests such as conjunctival scrapings, oral swabs, and samples from the trachea may be recommended, as well as a chest x-ray.
How is it treated?
• Encourage eating by providing warm or strong- smelling foods.
• Force-feeding or a feeding tube may be necessary if the cat refuses to eat.
• Humidifying the environment helps to improve breathing by loosening respiratory secretions.
• Antibiotics may be administered for bacterial infections.
• Cleansing of the eyes and topical ointment application are often recommended.
• Fluid therapy has also proven helpful.
• Treatment will also involve minimizing stress in the cat.
What follow up care is needed?
• Prevent the spread of the disease by isolating infected cats and keeping recovered cats away from those who are unvaccinated.
• Disinfect all contaminated objects with bleach.
• Vaccines do not prevent all infections, but they can help to lower the severity of the condition.
• URI can be life-threatening in kittens, older cats, nursing mothers, or immune- compromised cats.