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What is Upper Respiratory Infection?

These infections are also referred to as Feline Infectious Respiratory Disease, or Feline Upper Respiratory Disease Complex (URD) in the veterinary community. The infections vary in severity and have the potential to become life threatening.

Upper respiratory infections are extremely common ailments among cats. Most often the presence of an upper respiratory infection is seen by ocular, nasal, throat and lung irritation and discharge. These infections are spread from contact with other infected cats, and are especially rampant in areas where large groups of cats interact with each other. Kittens, unvaccinated cats, elderly cats and cats with immune deficiencies are the most susceptible to upper respiratory infections.

Upper Respiratory Infection Average Cost

From 592 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$500

Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats

While there are different forms of upper respiratory infections, they share similar symptoms. They are as follows:

  • Nasal discharge (can be containing pus or be clear)
  • Ocular discharge
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Conjunctivitis (inflamed eyelids)
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Discomfort
  • Lethargy
  • Blepharospasms (squinting)

Your cat may exhibit many or few of these symptoms. Cases change in severity from cat to cat.

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Causes of Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats

Upper respiratory infections are mainly caused by viral infections, however, in rare cases bacterial infections may be responsible. 

Feline Herpesvirus (FHV) 

A more severe form of virus that remains in the cat’s body for the rest of its life. Eye infections are commonly seen with this virus, along with coughing, sneezing, loss of appetite, pharyngitis (sore throat) and inflamed trachea. The virus will manifest itself whenever the cat experiences a time of stress thereafter in its life, with the cat being potentially contagious forever.

Feline Calicivirus (FCV) 

Less severe symptoms are experienced with this virus although more mouth ulceration may be present. There is also an increased risk of developing pneumonia with this virus. The cat may become a carrier once recovered, and could then be contagious whenever shedding the virus.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica 

A bacterial infection that may cause upper respiratory problems in cats. Generally associated with fever, sneezing, swollen lymph nodes and lung complications.

Chlamydophila Felis 

A bacterial infection often associated with eye infections and mild sneezing.

Mycoplasma 

A bacterial infection with symptoms of ocular discharge and eye swelling. 

Feline Reovirus 

A viral infection of the intestines that can sometimes mimic symptoms of a respiratory infection.

Pasteurella 

A bacterial infection that is often transmitted via animal bites. 

All of the aforementioned infections become rampant in situations where many cats are in contact with each other. Because of this, animal shelters, feral cat colonies, and any other large group of cats are at the highest risk of housing viral or bacterial infection epidemics. These upper respiratory infections can be spread from cats hissing, spitting, grooming or even sleeping near each other. Sharing food dishes or litter boxes can also spread infection.

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Diagnosis of Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats

Your vet will likely examine the cat and take note of all specific symptoms your cat is experiencing to rule out other possibilities. The vet will match your cat's symptoms to characteristic clinical signs associated with each type of upper respiratory infection to diagnose the animal. 

At this point, if your vet is still unsure of the type of infection at hand, or if the cat is responding very poorly to the infection, a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test will be administered. A swab from the mouth, eye or throat is collected and then sent to a lab for the test to be run. 

Further tests may be run if FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) or FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus) is suspected. If pneumonia has developed, a transtracheal wash may be done to collect lung samples. If the condition has become chronic, further tests may be needed including blood tests, chest and skull X-rays, and culture tests of abnormal discharge.

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Treatment of Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats

There is no cure for viral infections, so treatment is symptomatic. Your vet will combine some or all of these methods depending on the symptoms your cat is experiencing, and the severity of the infection. 

Antibiotics 

If your cat has developed any secondary infections due to the virus, antibiotics will be prescribed to stop the infections from progressing. 

Steam Inhalation 

To restore some function to the nose, and to entice eating through aromas, a cat may be subjected to steam to loosen or liquify nasal discharge.

Injectable Interferons 

If the virus is caught early on, injecting these proteins may help fight the infection before it fully develops in your cat.

Topical Antiviral Agents 

These agents are applied locally as an ointment or cream to treat the infection. Often, trifluridine, idoxuridine or cidofovir will be prescribed.

Ophthalmic Ointment 

This ointment is used to treat eye infections and irritants affecting the cat.   

Appetite Stimulants

 

If the cat still refuses to eat after wet food or aromatic food in oil have been given, an appetite stimulant will be given to help prevent the cat from developing anorexia.

Feeding Tube

If weight loss becomes too severe and the cat is not responding to food, a feeding tube may be administered to ensure the cat is receiving nutrients and fluids. 

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Recovery of Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats

A virus will usually run its course in 1-4 weeks. If it persists longer, another vet appointment may be necessary. To prevent the infection from spreading to other cats, all items the cat has been in contact with should be sanitized. Bleach, accelerated hydrogen peroxide, or trifectant (potassium peroxymonosulfate) are excellent agents for killing the viral or bacterial remains. Fresh air should be ventilated into the area to remove any infected aerosol content. Keep the cat quarantined for some weeks after symptoms have disappeared, and vaccinate any other cats in the home in the meantime. 

Reduce any possible stress your cat may experience. Especially with FHV, cats are prone to flare ups whenever experiencing stress. Diet change may be needed in cases of symptom recurrence, along with additional veterinary oversight to ensure FIV or FeLV have not developed.

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Upper Respiratory Infection Average Cost

From 592 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$500

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Upper Respiratory Infection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Lena

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Tabby DSH

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Weakness In Back Legs

I adopted sister rescue cats who had respiratory symptons. One of them had the usual running nose & eyes, sneezing etc. but the other cat worsened and stop eating and became very latharic. I had to return her to the clinic for treatment and was there for 3 weeks fed from a syringe, IV fluids, pain medications and antibotics. She developed sores in her mouth and on her gums. When I brought her home she appeared recovered from the "cold" but has weakness in her back legs causing her to fall and lose balance. Although she has greatly improved over the last month she still shows some weakness. She is very playful and runs and jumps (low areas) although she will stumble. The clinic said it may take months to regain full strength in her back legs. She is eating well.

June 21, 2018

Lena's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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I'm glad that Lena is slowly improving. Some viral diseases and infections can have a lengthy recovery. If you are not sure that she is recovering normally, it would be a good idea to have a recheck for her at the clinic to make sure that everything is progressing as expected.

June 22, 2018

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Mini

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tabby

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11 Months

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing
Coughing
Runny Nose
Discomfort
Conjunctivitis

Hi, my cat Mini is almost one year old. She started coughing two days ago, then the next day she developed one teary eye and is constantly sneezing. Today it is obvious that she has conjunctivitis. With these symptoms it it obvious to me that she must have feline chlamydiosis. I work with shelter cats in a pet store so that must be where she got this. My question is if I present a vet with all of this information will they be able to diagnose her rather quickly? Furthermore how much will the consultation and then treatment cost? I understand any answer will be a rough estimate and it could be more or less. I just need a ball park here because money is tight right now but obviously Mini needs to see a vet this week. Thank you!

April 8, 2018

Mini's Owner


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1 Recommendations

A Veterinarian will listen to your observations, but will still need to make a physical examination regardless since we cannot be giving out antibiotics left, right and centre (also there are legal restrictions too on prescribing prescription medications - depending on where you live); the fact you work with cats and have a list of symptoms will not make a difference to the cost of consultation and treatment (you may hear horses and your Veterinarian hears Zebras). Consultation prices vary (you never mentioned a country or city) from $20 at some charity clinics, $50 at some practices to $90 at others; treatment will also vary depending on the diagnosis and the treatment offered. If money is tight, check the link below for information on help with the cost of veterinary care. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.dogingtonpost.com/need-help-with-vet-bills-or-pet-food-there-are-resources-available/

April 8, 2018

Thank you for your quick response. That does make sense, I will check out that link.

April 8, 2018

Mini's Owner

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Mr.Boo Griffin

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Tuxedo cat

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12 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Snotty Yellow Nose, Watery Left Eye

My cat is a tuxedo cat. He is 12 yrs old in human years. I moved him to Bainbridge,Ga. And had to move him back to Tifton,Ga. Because his health started declining. He started sneezing excessively,left eye watering terribly, and snot shooting out of his nose when he sneezes. I have been to a vet several times about this and they give him a steroid shot that makes him feel great for a few days and the same white milky antibiotic for 2 weeks. He then just slowly goes back into it all over again. There is something else wrong and I am not getting any answers. Can you helpe?

April 4, 2018

Mr.Boo Griffin's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Cats are commonly affected by upper respiratory infections, but Mr. Boo may also have a growth in his nasal passages, or a resistant bacterial infection. Without seeing him, it is difficult for me to comment on what might be wrong with him. If you don't feel that he is getting adequate care, there is nothing wrong with seeking a second opinion to try and find out what is happening with him. I hope that he is okay.

April 5, 2018

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Luna

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American Shorthair

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Discharge From Mouth

This cat is a Colony cat. He lives off and on in my garage. About a week ago, I noticed labored breathing and just thought he snores. but the other day he slept for more than 24 hours, waking with himself and his bed soaked in what I thought was drool. I noticed several hours later that his “drool” was tinged yello/greenish. I put on gloves and attempted to open his mouth and I believe I saw what appeared to be a very red patch on his tounge. Almost blood colored but not blood. His gums are almost white. he hasn’t eaten or drank in 2 days. He is lethargic and non aggressive. No discharge from eyes or nose. Not sneezing that I can tell. The drooling is excessive. So incredibly excessive and getting worse. The entire side of his face is wet and he doesn’t seem to close his mouth. He can still meow. I would take Him to my vet if I had the money I’m working on figuring that out but he is a neighborhood colony cat that I trapped and nutered last year and he just kept coming back to my garage once he learned it was warm, dry, had a bed and food. He lets me touch him, my family and I care for him and I hate that I can’t do more for him.

April 3, 2018

Luna's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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I wish that I could give you more advice for Luna without seeing him. He sounds quite ill, and does need to seek veterinary care. There are many infectious diseases that he is susceptible to that may require treament. many clinics offer a 'free first exam', that may allow you to have him seen and at least get an idea as to what might be going on. i hope that he is okay.

April 3, 2018

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Danger

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Half Egyptian Mau

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4 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Fever
Sneezing
Watery Eyes
Rapid Breathing
Running Nose

Hi, my 4 year old female cat came down with what I thought was the flu about a month and a half ago, didn't get better, so tok her to the vet--she has rapid breathing, fever, watery eyes, sneezing, tiny bit of nose drip (whitish and clear). Vet prescribed clavamox, her fever was down for a few days and breathing rate decreased substantially but I suspect that was due to the anti-inflammatory shot she got at the vet. Took her back in when her symptoms came back in full force, a few days after the antibiotics course was finished. Then got doxycycline, hasn't really improved on that either, xrays showed a LOT of stuff in her lungs. Vet said maybe a fungal infection, though not common around here in south central Kansas. I'm wondering about lung worms. Not sure what to do, breathing rate is scary, what do you think? Any suggestions? Would a nebulizer perhaps help calm her breathing rate down as we continue trying to figure out what's going on?

March 31, 2018

Danger's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Lungworm infections are uncommon and may not be normally considered in the differential diagnosis, but may occur; diagnosis with faecal floatation or a bronchial mucus smear are diagnostic methods of choice, x-rays and bronchoscopy are also useful but you should discuss with your Veterinarian. If antibiotic therapy hasn’t been successful, it may be a case of sending a sample for culture and sensitivity to confirm whether there is an infection (bacterial or fungal) and to determine a suitable antibiotic for treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

March 31, 2018

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Aya

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Shorthair

dog-age-icon

10 Weeks

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing, Sneezing, Eye Gunk

Hello! My Kitten, Aya, is about 10 weeks old. She started showing signs of an upper respiratory infection about a week and a half ago. She has been sneezing, coughing, and constantly has gunk in her eyes. This hasn't stopped her from playing constantly and running around as kittens do. I don't think it is severe yet. She still eats, but eating has decreased in the past day. I do have a vet apt for her tomorrow, but I was wondering about the cost of treatment and such? It would occur in Southern Maine.

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Captain

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Norwegian

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6 Months

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Cant Get Up

Upper respiratory infection, feline herpes virus since day one of getting my kitten sept 20 2018. This lady should be arrested. Anyway last Tuesday I got home from work early to find my 6 month old kitten tongue through his teeth and severely salivating. He was fine the night before and that morning. I called immediately taking him in. Full blood panel does not have feline leukemia but liver enzymes up, red blood up and heart murmur which vet though he had out grown is more severe now. After three days he seemed to be back to his old self and then fri I wake up he cant barely walk, wont eat, drink. I by kitten supplement and a/d from the vet as my vet was not in. I should mention nTHAo other vet in cheboygan Michigan would help me fri without payment in full not even payment plan.THAT being said I've hand fed, syringed closely monitored since then. Well tonight he wont move temp is 99.4 yet he purrs when I hold him. I keep trying food and supplement. I'm devastated to say the least. I'm praying hell hold on until Monday but idk. I need help, I cant lose him I just cant. This lady does this and i reported her yet nothing happened. Someone have suggestions I'm up to try anything.

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Pearl

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tabby

dog-age-icon

9 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing

I have 2 cats, 9y/o. They were both treated with Bravecto because they both had "dog" fleas. Both of my cats had bad side effects~My little female was much worse. She would not eat, was extremely lethargic etc. Now, it's not quite 2 weeks later and my female has come down with an upper respiratory infection 3 days ago. She still eats very good, is not lethargic. She sneezes yet her nasal discharge is clear, she just barely started to have one eye that waters (clear). I would like to know if she still needs to be taken to the vet. Every time I'm there it seems that one or both get sick.

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Mama kitty

dog-breed-icon

Long haired

dog-age-icon

14 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

My cat is about 14 years old. For the past year she has gotten very sick very quickly. She has been given antibiotics which seem to help for almost two weeks then back to the old way. I’ve been told it is upper respiratory but I don’t know how bad. She constantly sounds nasaled breathing as if a stuffy nose. Drooling constantly some days are better then other, her tongue is constantly sticking out and is very skinny. But the crazy part is she doesn’t act sick. She eats ALOT, is active and is always affectionate. Could this be feline aids? She used to be an outside cat but not anymore. I love her very much but don’t know what else to do?

Upper Respiratory Infection Average Cost

From 592 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$500

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