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Shelter Medicine: The Best Medicine

The lowdown on upper respiratory infections in cats

The lowdown on upper respiratory infections in cats

This cat is showing typical signs of URI, including red, watery eyes, a runny nose, and a dirty front paw from wiping them. BRENDA GRIFFIN
Upper respiratory tract infections (URIs) are the most common infectious diseases of shelter cats and can be challenging to control. But certain protocols can be implemented to minimize both the number of cats who develop respiratory disease and the severity of their illness. Even though you will likely never fully eliminate these infections, careful management practices and tracking of URI can help you determine the optimal practices to limit these infections in your shelter.

The Culprits

The vast majority of URI in cats is caused by one of two viruses: feline herpes virus (also known as feline rhinotracheitis or FVR) and calicivirus. These viruses are spread through direct contact with infected cats or their respiratory secretions, and indirectly through contact with contaminated people or objects (known as fomites). Unlike many of the viruses that cause disease in dogs or even people, these viruses aren’t aerosolized—in fact, when a cat sneezes, droplet spray extends no more than four feet.

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