If we often compare coryza to the simple “cold” that we are familiar with, it is actually a more complex disease. Its severity can be variable, and it can even be fatal in immunocompromised kittens and cats. It should therefore not be underestimated … This disease is a real scourge when it affects cats living in communities (pet shops, farms, boarding houses, etc.), because it is then very difficult to get rid of it. However, common cold is not only rife in catteries and it is important to know the disease in order to react quickly.
What are the symptoms of common cold?
The symptoms of coryza can be of variable nature and intensity: certain forms, discrete, are bearable on a daily basis for the animal. Others, called “hyper virulent”, are life-threatening. In addition, coryza can be fatal in young still fragile kittens and immunocompromised animals (this is the case in cats infected with FIV or feline leukosis, for example).
After an incubation of 2 to 4 days, the disease manifests itself by targeting:
– The upper respiratory system: the cat is slaughtered, sneezes, coughs, has a runny nose (the discharge may be transparent or purulent, or even slightly bloody). This is very uncomfortable for him, who, unlike humans, hates breathing through their mouths! In addition, the destruction of the nasal mucosa can lead to loss of smell; the cat, no longer able to smell its food, sometimes stops eating. It weakens and becomes dehydrated very quickly …
– The eyes: some cats may present with conjunctivitis. The eyes are then dirty and purulent. In more severe cases, ulcers may appear on the cornea.
– The oral cavity: in some cases, especially when the virus involved is a Calicivirus, ulcers appear on the tongue or gums. The cat drools, has difficulty eating. By gently opening its mouth, you will observe bright red patches with sharp edges. Be careful, the reactions can be violent! Indeed, these are very painful wounds …
Warning ! These symptoms are very general and can be a sign of other illnesses! Thus, their appearance must always motivate a consultation with your veterinarian, because only he will be able to confirm or not the attack by the coryza.
What is the coryza due to?
It is above all a syndrome; this means that several pathogens can be at the origin of the common cold. They often even act in combination. They are mainly viruses of different families (Herpesvirus, Calicivirus and Reovirus to a lesser extent). Bacteria often play a role of secondary agent, by superinfecting the already weakened nasal mucosa. However, a bacterium, Chlamydophila felis, is also considered to be a primary agent of common cold. It mainly causes conjunctivitis, and relatively few respiratory problems.
After a simple clinical examination, it is impossible for the veterinarian to determine with certainty the agent (s) involved in common cold for a given cat. To do this, certain laboratory tests exist. They are generally used to target treatment in communities, or during frequent recurrences in the same cat. These tests are rarely offered as a first-line option.
How do cats get infected?
Your cat can catch coryza from its congeners, whether they are sick or asymptomatic carriers: the disease is transmitted via saliva, nasal or ocular secretions. Sneezing, hissing, or mutual toilet are all opportunities to get contaminated. But contamination can also be indirect: thus, Caliciviruses can resist a whole week under the soles of your shoes, in a basket or at the bottom of a bowl.
People and objects that have been in contact with a sick cat can also be a source of infection. This is why the disease is so difficult to eradicate in a cattery. It is just as difficult to control the infection when several cats live together in the same household …
Can a cat sick with coryza heal “on its own”?
Symptoms can regress in about ten days. Subsequently, some cats will spontaneously eliminate the virus, others will remain chronic carriers and shed the virus throughout their life, sometimes asymptomatically. In any case, when a cat is sick with coryza, it is better not to leave it lying around and to take charge of the problem quickly! Indeed, a badly treated coryza can leave sequelae (for example an excessively damaged nasal mucosa, even damage to the bone structures of the nose). The disease then takes on a chronic aspect, which is more difficult to treat. Breathing becomes noisy (snoring, wheezing) and the nose runs frequently.
In addition, contamination by a virus of the Herpes family may be latent: the virus remains “lurking” in the body, and reappears thanks to stress or a decline in immune defenses (other disease, -low …), like a cold sore. The cat then appears to be cured, but in reality it has not eliminated the disease, which can recur at any time.
What is the treatment for common cold?
There is no specific treatment against the viruses responsible for common cold. The main objectives are therefore to improve the comfort of the cat and avoid the occurrence of complications.The first thing to do at home is to clean the scabs around the nose and eyes daily with a cotton ball. soaked in lukewarm water or physiological serum. At the same time, symptomatic treatment will be implemented by your veterinarian, in order to relieve the cat. This treatment is adapted on a case-by-case basis, depending on the symptoms your cat is presenting. This often involves the prescription of anti-inflammatory drugs, or aerosol therapy.
The main objective is to decongest the nose and moisten the secretions, to improve comfort and promote, if necessary, the recovery of appetite. Some veterinary clinics are equipped with special devices for performing aerosol therapy, in order to ‘administer antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs through the nose. It is sometimes possible to rent them in certain pharmacies. These devices can be difficult to use in less docile cats because they are noisy and therefore stressful. More simply, some inhalations can be performed at home. This is less difficult than it sounds, as long as you have a large towel and a transport box that closes properly.
How do you get a cat to inhale?
1. Place the cat in its transport basket. In front of the cage, place a bowl of very hot water, in which you will have poured a few drops of active principle (This is often a decongestant product, some specialties of which are available in pharmacies). Then cover everything with a large towel. Beware of the risk of burns! Make sure that the basket is properly closed, and that it is placed on a very stable surface… It is best to stick around to see that everything is going well.
2. An inhalation session lasts an average of 10 to 20 minutes. To obtain a convincing result, 2 to 3 daily sessions are necessary, for approximately 5 days. So you need a good dose of patience … and a little trickery, because after 2 or 3 sessions, some cats refuse to return to the transport basket.
3. If necessary, your veterinarian may decide to prescribe antibiotics, in order to treat secondary bacterial infections, or to prevent their appearance. Finally, if your cat categorically refuses to eat, it may be necessary to hospitalize her. He will then receive liquid feeding by tube and rehydration by infusion.
Depending on your cat’s symptoms, and any complications present, the treatment may be supplemented by other more targeted measures (administration of eye drops in the event of eye damage, healing ointments if the nose is very damaged, etc.)
In severe cases, the use of interferon is sometimes suggested. It is a very expensive antiviral agent. To date, there are very few data on its effectiveness.
What can I do to protect my cat?
Kittens are protected in the first weeks of life by antibodies transmitted by their mother. They then become particularly susceptible to infections. This is why it is necessary to “take over” through vaccination.
The coryza vaccines currently on the market protect against both Calicivirus, Herpesvirus, and sometimes also Chlamydophilosis. Be careful, they are not intended to prevent contamination of the cat or the onset of the disease, but to reduce the severity of the symptoms. They will therefore not prevent your animal from carrying coryza, but it will be less sick, will heal faster, and will be less contaminating for its congeners. Vaccination is therefore recommended from the age of 8 weeks. In some cases, vaccination is possible from 6 weeks. The vaccination schedule may be different from vaccine to vaccine, but usually two to three injections are needed in the first year. Thereafter, a reminder is to be expected every year. Do not hesitate to seek advice from your veterinarian.
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