The bacteria and viruses that most commonly cause upper respiratory infections (URIs) in cats are:
Upper respiratory infections, also known as URIs, are very common in cats. They are similar to colds in people, but they are caused by different types of germs.
There are several ways cats can become infected with upper respiratory viruses:
How an upper respiratory infection is treated depends on how severe it is and whether or not there seems to be a bacterial infection complicating the viral infection. A mildly symptomatic adult cat might need no treatment at all as the symptoms should naturally wane over 1-2 weeks. A heavily congested kitten is likely to need antibiotics and possibly even hospitalization. Antibiotics act not only on bacteria that complicate viral infection but some upper respiratory infections are bacterial and not viral at all. The next most common infectious agents (after herpes and calici) are (formerly known as ) and Bordetella bronchiseptica, both organisms being sensitive to the family (such as ). For this reason, when antibiotics are selected, tetracyclines and their relatives are frequently chosen. Other commonly used antibiotics are: ®, , , and . Oral medications, and/or eye ointments are commonly prescribed. Severely affected cats may need to have inhalational antibiotics, fluids administered intravenously or under the skin to maintain hydration, and/or some sort of assisted feeding. If you have concerns over your cat’s respiration rate contact your veterinarian.Tidy Cats Lightweight cat litter is causing respiratory distress in cats.
URIs are especially common in kittens, and almost all cats will have experienced an upper respiratory infection by the time they reach adulthood. A very large proportion of kittens adopted from shelters suffer from URIs shortly after adoption.What causes most URIs?
Most URIs are the result of infection with a virus. Like humans, there are many viruses that can cause upper respiratory disease. The most common virus that causes URIs in cats is herpesvirus. Signs of infection range from mild to severe and may last a few days to several weeks. Recovered cats may become carriers, meaning that they can have recurrent infections or infect other cats. Calicivirus is another virus that can produce mild to severe URIs. This virus is also associated with the formation of oral ulcers and may be fatal, especially in kittens. All viruses cause irritation and damage to the nasal passages which predispose cats to secondary bacterial infections. Rarely, cases are primarily bacterial and are caused by Chlamydophila felis, Bordetella, or Mycoplasma species.When cats first come down with these diseases they often , sneeze and become listless. Their appetite may wane. After the first few days of illness their body temperature returns to normal. A cat’s normal body temperature is 101.5-102.5F. Cats with respiratory tract infections can reach 106F during the first few days of illness. That is why adequate fluid intake is so important to prevent dehydration. Cats with Calicivirus often drool due to ulcers on their tongue, lips and roof of the mouth. These cats rarely show signs of pneumonia because with the exception of Calicivirus, these organisms usually spare the lungs. Nasal drainage is at first watery. With a time, the discharges become thick, tenacious and mucoid. Cat’s eyes become reddened, inflamed and weepy. These signs can last a week or so in mild cases and many months in stressed or frail pets. Mature cats almost never die from this disease. The disease is only life threatening in weak kittens that my stop eating or when a secondary pneumonia occurs in weakened patients. Despite the highly contagious nature of all the feline upper respiratory agents, it is important to realize that most cats are at very small risk for exposure. In other words, in order to get this kind of infection, a cat must be in the same home as an infected cat or share the same human caretaker, toys or food bowls. Typically infected cats come from the shelter, are outdoor cats, or are housed in close contact with lots of other cats (experiencing crowding stress). Persian cats are predisposed to upper respiratory infection due to their inherent facial flattening. The average house cat who is not exposed to any rescued kittens, lives with only one or two other cats at most, and never goes outside is unlikely break with infection. Kittens are predisposed due to their immature immune systems and are usually hit the hardest.