Cat flu is caused by the H1N1 strain of the flu virus, and while this particular strain of the virus is no longer spreading across the world at the rate it was when it emerged in 2009, it's still present and being diagnosed regularly in cats across Australia. Cat flu is highly contagious and can be spread to other pets in your home. Cats cannot transmit the virus to humans, but there have been cases where it's been thought a cat has developed this strain of flu from an infected human. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for cat flu:
During the early stages of the cat flu virus, your cat may display no symptoms, but early symptoms of the condition can include loss of appetite, coughing, sneezing and tiredness. Your cat may also develop a fever, runny nose and a clear discharge coming from their eyes. In severe cases, cats can develop secondary upper respiratory infections that can cause breathing problems.
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
Your vet will diagnose cat flu by taking details of your cat's symptoms and carrying out a physical exam. Your cat will undergo diagnostic testing, which may include blood tests to rule out other conditions and having their nose or throat swabbed. A swab analysis can confirm the presence of a molecule specifically found in cats with the H1N1 strain of influenza. Your vet may also suggest that your cat have a chest X-ray, which will allow them to determine if there's any damage to the lungs as a result of a respiratory infection.
When diagnosed with cat flu, your cat will have to be kept away from other animals for the duration of their illness. It's also vital that anyone coming into contact with the affected cat washes their hands thoroughly to help prevent spreading the virus. Your vet will outline a treatment plan according to your cat's symptoms, and this may include intravenous fluids to treat dehydration if your cat has not been eating or drinking enough. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat respiratory infections or to attempt to prevent them from developing, and in cats that are having breathing difficulties, anti-inflammatories or steroids may be prescribed. Additionally, your vet will show you how to clean your cat's eyes and nose to keep them comfortable and prevent bacterial infections.
If your cat has any of the symptoms associated with cat flu, or if you have concerns about their respiratory health, schedule an urgent appointment with your vet.