Treatment for Feline Herpesvirus

Treatment for an FHV-infected cat involves providing supportive care, including the following:

  • Minimize stress (Make sure the room is warm, well ventilated, and well lighted. Some veterinarians recommend that cats are kept indoors while they are sick.)
  • Make sure the cat is eating and drinking enough. (Offer foods that appeal to them.)
  • Keep the cat's eyes and nose clean and clear of discharge.
  • Use a humidifier or put the cat in a bathroom while the hot shower is running. (This helps break up the mucus in the upper airway.)

Treatment for Anorexic Cats

Providing adequate nutrition and fluid is essential for the cat's health. Several different methods can be used to feed a cat that is not eating.

Some cats can be hand fed their favorite foods. Forced feeding can be stressful for the cat, and may not always provide adequate nutrition.

Cats that are stressed by force feeding or that aren't getting nutrition from it, can be fed through a tube (a nasoesophageal or nasogastric tube) that goes into the nasal cavity and extends into the far end of the esophagus, or all the way to the stomach. Tube feeding can be done at home and doesn't require hospitalization.

For cats that are unable to absorb nutrients through the GI tract, or that are so debilitated that even tube feeding can't deliver sufficient nutrients, liquid nutrition can be administered intravenously.

Medication to Treat Feline Herpesvirus

Depending on the symptoms and the occurrence of secondary infections, medications that may be used include the following:

  • Oral antibiotics to prevent or to treat secondary bacterial infections
  • Eye ointments to treat ulcerative keratitis
  • Decongestants (e.g., nasal drops) to decrease nasal discharge
  • Interferon to help control chronic infectious nasal discharge in kittens 3 to 8 weeks old

Feline Herpesvirus Prognosis

Rhinotracheitis is a fairly mild condition, even in its most severe form, as long as the cat receives adequate fluids and nutrition. It often runs its course in 7 to 10 days without medical intervention.

The infection usually lasts longer when secondary bacterial infections develop. Rarely, FHV-1 causes death in young kittens and older cats. Some cats may develop chronic symptoms such as chronic rhinosinusitis (sneezing and nasal discharge).

Feline Herpesvirus Prevention

Routine vaccination against FHV-1 can prevent development of severe disease, but it does not always prevent infection. Kittens should be vaccinated at 8 to 10 weeks of age, then at 12 to 14 weeks of age, and then annually.

An infected cat should be isolated to prevent spread of the virus.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 01 Mar 2001

Last Modified: 16 Dec 2014