Overview of Feline Herpesvirus

Feline rhinotracheitis virus (feline herpesvirus type 1 or FHV-1) causes acute respiratory illness known as rhinotracheitis (or feline herpesvirus infection). The virus affects domestic and wild cats worldwide.

Rhinotracheitis is characterized by respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, nasal discharge, rhinitis (inflammation of the nose), and conjunctivitis (inflammation of the membrane lining the eyelid). It also affects the reproductive tract and can cause complications during pregnancy.

Rhinotracheitis is part of the feline upper respiratory infection complex, which is a group of viral and bacterial infections (e.g., calicivirus, chlamydiosis) that cause sneezing and discharge from the eyes and nose. Cats often have two or more of these upper respiratory infections at the same time, and FHV-1 is one of the most common.

Incidence of Feline Herpesvirus

FHV-1 occurs worldwide. Cats of all ages and breeds are susceptible, although it is more common in the following:

  • Kittens, especially those born to infected mothers
  • Multicat households, catteries, and pet adoption shelters, especially those with:
    • Overcrowding
    • Physical (e.g., temperature) or psychological (e.g., introduction of a new cat) stressors
    • Poor nutrition
    • Poor sanitation
    • Poor ventilation
  • Pregnant cats that are lactating
  • Sick cats (especially sickness associated with a weakened immune system or other respiratory infection)
  • Unvaccinated cats

Publication Review By: Under Construction

Published: 01 Mar 2001

Last Modified: 24 May 2011