CALICIVIRUS #cats #ferals #rescue #calicivirus

IMG_1737Here is an excerpt from Scooter’s Tale, about a horrible two months in our feline household. When we take in a new kitten, we always take them to the vet’s office the following day to get them checked out before introducing them into the household. This time we didn’t. We didn’t have the money for a vet visit…and ended up paying far more in medical bills than one visit would have cost us.

From Scooter’s Tale, here is a bit about calicivirus.


Calicivirus; we’d never heard of it, but it dramatically altered our household for a period of six to eight weeks. Now, almost a year later, all we need is one cat that starts acting a little ‘off’ for a day or two and we panic. Oh no! Not again! A quick check of the mouth for ulcerations, checking for fever and watching like worried parents and within a few hours or a day it’s resolved and it was only a minor icky tummy.

Feline calicivirus (FCV) is a feline respiratory disease that is highly communicable. This is one of two viruses causing respiratory infection in cats. The other is feline herpesvirus. The virus initially attacks the respiratory tract, moves to ulcerations in the mouth, then to the intestines and musculoskeletal system.

The virus is secreted in saliva, feces, urine, and respiratory secretions. It can be transmitted to other cats through the air, orally, and on fomites. (The transmission of infectious diseases by objects, such as contaminated bedding or towels, when the live virus remains on the object itself.)

FCV can occur in cats of any age, but young kittens, those older than six weeks have been found to be the most susceptible. Usually after the age of three years, the FCV symptoms are mild or asymptomatic. This probably explains why our older cats had only very mild problems, while our youngest ones became so ill.

Symptoms usually show themselves suddenly and in a progressive way. Initial symptoms are usually loss of appetite, lethargy, fever, and eye and nasal discharge. These symptoms usually appear in the first one to five days. As the disease progresses, the mouth typically becomes ulcerated, which also inhibits the cats desire to eat. Later symptoms include pneumonia and difficulty breathing if not treated. Joint inflammation, showing as arthritis, lameness and a painful gait can follow. Jaundice and multiple organ dysfunction syndrome are later stage ailments. The mortality rate, if untreated is as high as 67%.

As with humans, where not all symptoms present themselves in the same exact manner from one person to the next, so it goes with cats. Not all of our cats had all of the symptoms, nor were any of them of the same severity.

FCV is a virus, and just as human viruses, there isn’t a medication to specifically treat them. Antibiotics are given to treat the symptoms and to prevent or treat any secondary bacterial infections that may present.

While FCV is resistant to disinfection, a 1:32 dilution of household bleach used with a detergent, and a sufficient contact time, does seem to kill, or at least minimize the virus.

Cats usually shed the virus for two weeks, so a lot of dealing with this infection has to do with riding out this two week period and treating the symptoms. In households with multiple cats, or in situations like shelters or breeding facilities, the problems multiply when the virus just keeps re-infecting the population.

Nursing care at home typically involves administering the antibiotics and checking temperatures for spikes in fever. Eyes and noses may need cleaned to keep secretions from accumulating. Keep water handy. If you notice they’re not drinking, you may need to force feed some water so the cats remain hydrated. Meals are important so that the cats maintain energy and don’t become malnourished. If their mouths are ulcerated, soft foods need to be offered.

Your veterinarian can prescribe antibiotics. They may also prescribe ophthalmic antibiotics for the eyes and painkillers or cortisone injections for painful joints.

For more acute symptoms, such as high uncontrolled fever, pneumonia or hemorrhages, hospitalization may be required.

With proper care and treatment, and a lot of love and worry, both you and your cat can survive and live to love another day.



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