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Calicivirus Infection in Cats

General Information

Feline calicivirus is a virus that causes mild to serious respiratory illness. Cats become infected by inhaling or swallowing the virus, and signs of illness may develop within
2-10 days of exposure. Early signs include runny eyes and nose, sneezing, depression and poor appetite. Ulcers may develop on the tongue and hard palate, and most infected cats drool heavily. Illness lasts from 1 to 4 weeks. Though most cats recover, fatalities do occur. Young kittens are most likely to be severely affected. Some cats that recover from the initial disease may continue to shed the virus for weeks or even years.

A vaccine is available for prevention of calicivirus infection.

Important Points in Treatment

1. Drugs cannot eliminate calicivirus. Treatment is designed to prevent bacterial infections (especially pneumonia), relieve signs, and maintain hydration and nutrition.

2. Severely affected cats and kittens must be treated in the hospital, where intravenous fluids can be given to maintain hydration and provide nutrition.

3. The virus is hardy and may survive outside the cat on dishes, pans, etc, for 8-10 days.

4. Home treatment:

* Give all the medication as directed. Call the doctor if you
cannot medicate your cat.

* Wipe away all discharges from the nose and eyes several times

5. Diet:

* Feed: _______________________________________________

* Water: Maintaining adequate hydration is extremely important.
If your cat will not drink on its own, give several
forced drinks with a syringe, meat baster or bulb syringe. Give
_______________ every ____ hours.

* Rest: Enforce rest. Do not encourage play or let children
handle the ill pet.

Notify the Doctor if Any of the Following Occur:

* Your cat's condition worsens.

* Your cat refuses to eat or drink.

* Your cat develops new signs.

* Your cat relapses after apparent recovery.

Understanding Your Pet's Medical Diagnosis


What is calicivirus?

Calicivirus is a common virus that causes upper respiratory infection, pneumonia, mouth ulcers, and occasionally lameness in cats. The disease can be minimized or prevented by routine vaccinations.

What causes calicivirus infection?

Cats catch calicivirus from direct contact with infected cats or from an environment that has been contaminated by infected cats. It is passed easily, especially where many cats are housed together, such as in catteries or animal shelters. Poor ventilation increases the spread of the virus. While cleanliness helps reduce spread, the virus is relatively stable in the environment and resistant to many disinfectants.

What are the signs of calicivirus infection?

Most infected cats sneeze frequently and have runny eyes as well as discharge from the nose. Generally the cat seems to feel well, but some cats may run a fever and become quite ill. These cats may develop sore, ulcerated gums and tongues, have trouble breathing, or may become lame suddenly. Many affected cats lose their appetites.

How is calicivirus infection diagnosed?

Generally the disease will be diagnosed based upon the veterinarian's strong suspicion of calicivirus infection based on physical signs. Several respiratory viruses may cause similar signs; therefore, special tests must be performed if a definitive diagnosis is needed. The virus may be cultured from swabs taken of the mouth, lung, bowel movement, blood, nose, or eyes. The veterinarian may collect two blood samples, one early in the disease and one two weeks later, to prove increasing antibodies against the calicivirus. If the antibodies increase, they indicate that the cat has been infected and sick from calicivirus.

How is calicivirus infection treated?

No specific anti-viral drugs work against calicivirus. Home nursing care is important; the pet guardian should clean crusts gently off the cat's nose and eyes, offer soft foods (especially to cats with mouth ulcers), and make sure the cat continues to eat well. Oral antibiotics and antibiotic eye ointments are given to treat secondary bacterial infections, which are common. Lameness can be controlled with pain medications, but only on veterinary advice. Over-the-counter human pain medications, such as acetaminophen, can be fatal to cats and should not be used. Acetaminophen is found in many over-the-counter human products, such as Tylenol, Actifed; Cold Sinus, Comtrex, and Excedrin. Always check with your veterinarian prior to giving your cat any medication.

What is the prognosis for pets infected with calicivirus?

Cats that become sick with calicivirus usually recover very well within a week or two. However, those that develop pneumonia have a more guarded prognosis (outcome) and may require intensive treatment in the hospital in order to recover. Recovered cats shed the virus for long periods of time and may infect other cats.

The information on this page was obtained from the site www.vetmedcenter.com