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Q: Is there a way to reduce the signs and symptoms of feline herpesvirus and is it contagious to humans and other pets?

Original Question: "My cat’s right eye drains and is swollen and red inside the lid. I have mentioned this to his vet more than once and have been told that this is ‘normal’ as he was a rescue and lived on the streets and he likely contracted the herpes virus. My question’s relating to this are: Is there a way to reduce the swelling and drainage? Is this uncomfortable for the cat? Is there a way to ‘fix’ it? Is this herpes virus contagious to humans or other cats/pets?" - Heather


Vet Certified Answer | Answered: November 29, 2017

Hi Heather,

Thanks for your question!

Feline herpesvirus infection is very common in cats, and often causes chronic conjunctivitis and other upper respiratory tract problems. Cats typically pick it up at a young age from other cats, especially if they have been housed in close quarters. Core vaccinations for cats and kittens include the herpes virus and can prevent your cat from becoming infected, however, many cats acquire the virus before they are fully vaccinated.

Unfortunately, once a cat is infected, there is no cure. Signs tend to “flare up” during times of stress or if the cat experiences another illness. There are things you can do to minimize stress in the home environment to reduce the frequency and severity of the signs. This might include providing quiet hiding places, multiple litter boxes, keeping your pet indoors and entertained, and feeding a high-quality diet. The virus is thankfully only contagious to other cats and not humans. If you are thinking about bringing another cat into your home, ensure he/she is completely vaccinated first. When flare-ups do occur, there are eye drops and other medications that can help with some of the symptoms, depending on the severity. If you feel that your cat’s quality of life is significantly affected, then speak with your vet further about your concerns.

I hope this helps!

Dr. Kim Hester


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