Feline Herpes Virus (FHV) - what you need to know

Feline herpesvirus (FHV) is a virus that mainly causes acute upper respiratory infections (URIs) in cats.

FHV is highly contagious and can be transmitted between cats through direct contact, contaminated food bowls, bedding or even as an airborne virus through sneeze droplets.

How to spot if your cat has FHV

The signs of FHV are usually the following. Talk to your vet if you’re concerned about your cat.

  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • Keratitis (inflammation and infection of the cornea)
  • FHV associated dermatitis

How is FHV treated?

Your vet will prescribe antibiotics and in some cases intravenous fluids will be required. Some anti-viral medication can help in managing the disease.

It’s a good idea to discuss costs with your vet before you start treatment.

How do I protect my cat from FHV?

Vaccination is the most effective from of preventative care from FHV. Your vet can advise you on this.

How do I avoid FHV reoccurring?

After being infected with FHV, most cats remain latently infected. This means the virus persists in their nerve cells, so infected cats effectively become life-long carriers of the virus. It’s vital that you keep your cat’s litter trays and bedding clean to prevent the spread of FHV.

Many cats don’t spread the virus so aren’t a risk to others. However, some cats will intermittently spread the virus again – this is more common after episodes of stress or when the cat’s immune system is suppressed. When virus is spread again, some cats will also develop mild clinical signs.

If you’re thinking of adopting a cat with FHV

Make sure you review the clinical history of your new cat and ask for more details on how the disease was treated.  You’ll need to sign a disclaimer to confirm you’ve been made aware of the condition. Any cat who’s had treatment is likely to have pet insurance exclusions, so it’s worth discussing potential on-going costs with your vet.

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