Cat sleeping in bed between the sheets.

Feline Diagnosis and Treatment of Upper Respiratory Disease

Because viruses cannot be readily identified microscopically or cultured, diagnosis of URD in cats relies on history of occurrence and clinical signs seen. Laboratory findings from blood samples are usually nonspecific as well.

If Chlamydophila is suspected, microscopic examination of some of the cells lining the conjunctiva and/or nasal passages might reveal characteristic inclusions created by this organism. Also, because of its effect on the immune system, all cats suffering from URD should be concurrently tested for feline leukemia and the feline immuno- deficiency virus.

Any sign suggestive of upper respiratory disease in cats warrants prompt veterinary examination and treatment to prevent serious sequelae. In the case of rhinotracheitis and calicivirus, there are no specific drugs to combat these agents; however, with good supportive care, life-threatening situations can be avoided.

Antibiotic therapy is usually implemented to prevent any secondary infections from setting up; antibiotics are also indicated for combatting Chlamydophila and Bordetella infections. If eye manifestations are present, antibiotic-containing eyedrops or ointment will help protect the eyes and speed healing.

In addition to oral and, if needed, ophthalmic antibiotics, it is vital that the nose and airways be cleared of discharge and fluid as soon as possible. Because a feline’s appetite is dependent on its ability to smell its food, cats with URD will show a marked reduction in appetite, which could conceivably lead to secondary complications from mal- nutrition and dehydration.

Nasal discharges should be manually removed as often as possible. Human nasal decongestant sprays might be used to help break up any mucus build-up that might be present (contact a veterinarian as to types and dosages).

Humidifying the cat’s room air using a vaporizer or by placing it in a misty bathroom where hot water has been running in the shower will also assist in the breakup of mucus within the airways. If dehydration is a factor, intravenous fluid replacement performed by a veterinarian might be necessary.

Finally, good nursing care can do wonders to assure a positive out- come. Keep the ill cat warm and dry and free from stress. If required, force-feeding or tube feeding can help provide the nutrition necessary to boost the effectiveness of the cat’s own immune system and shorten the convalescent period.

Prevention of URD

Owners can help prevent URD in their cats by making sure that they remain current on vaccinations. Both intranasal and inject- able vaccines are available to combat respiratory viruses. In multicat households, prompt isolation of sick and sneezing cats might help prevent its rapid spread to other cats in the household.