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Just a few weeks ago, a 13-year-old indoor cat in Iowa was diagnosed with swine flu. “Two of the three members of the family that owns the pet had suffered from influenza-like illness before the cat became ill,” explains Dr. Ann Garvey, a veterinarian with the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Although everyone recovered, many pet owners remain concerned about their own cats and families. As is the case with so many other illnesses, the facts are hard to separate from fiction. We’ve debunked some misconceptions, and we offer facts and pointers to help you deal with cat infections.
Feline Flu: Myths and Facts
How to Help Your Cat
Although true flu among cats doesn’t occur often, your cat can still develop respiratory problems and other symptoms that resemble human flu, as well as symptoms unlike those associated with human influenza. A cat with a respiratory infection may not only sneeze and cough but also lose its appetite, develop a high fever and find it difficult to breathe through its nose. The cat additionally could squint, develop cloudiness or heavy discharge from the eye, and experience severe swelling of the tissue around the eyes.
Any cat that develops such symptoms needs to see a veterinarian. The veterinarian can recommend treating the respiratory symptoms with antibiotics, which will help combat the bacteria contributing additional discomfort to the cat. Your veterinarian can also prescribe an ointment to ease eye symptoms, and nose drops to relieve nasal congestion.
Although animal health experts continue to investigate how well the human swine flu vaccine works on cats, a readily available vaccine -- the FVCRP -- can help prevent most other feline respiratory infections.“FVCRP is a common combination vaccine recommended by the American Association of Feline Practitioners every three years that will help protect against both the calicivirus and the herpes virus,” says Dr. Wright. “These are the two most common respiratory viruses in cats today.”
is an award-winning pet writer and the author of Housetraining for Dummies, Senior Dogs for Dummies and Beagles for Dummies. She was honored by The Cat Writers Association as a finalist for the Muse Medallion, which recognizes excellence in writing about cats.