Feline calicivirus: symptoms, treatment and prevention

 Feline calicivirus is a highly contagious disease spread all over the world. Fortunately, it is not dangerous to humans as any other species-specific infection. But cats are less fortunate in this case: if the disease is not detected in time, a pet may die.


Ways of infection

 There are four well-known virus strains, and all four are found worldwide. Calicivirus incubation period may last up to five days. A cat can get sick, even without contacting a virus carrier, when sniffing feces or relaxing on the grass stained with urine of the virus carrier. The virus is transmitted by airborne droplets at a distance of a meter from the source. Also feline calicivirus remain viable for several days on human skin, hair and clothing, so there is a certain risk for your pet, even if it never leaves your place. The disease is transmitted through cat’s saliva, discharge from eyes, nose and genitals.

 After the recovery the cat remains a virus carrier over the following two months, and sometimes during the whole life. Calicivirus signs in cats may not appear at all, but it doesn’t mean that in this period the animal isn’t contagious. That is why it is important to be attentive when visiting exhibitions and other places with lots of cats, as an outwardly healthy animal may be a carrier of the disease. If your cat is sick with calicivirus, you should immediately isolate it from other cats.


 As a rule calicivirus in kittens occurs in acute form with pronounced symptoms. In adult cats having a strong immunity system and in vaccinated animals the disease occurs in latent form, with subtle signs or totally without them.

Typical symptoms of feline calicivirus:

  • fever up to 40,5 °C, it lasts about three days, then the body temperature returns to normal;
  • nose and eyes discharge, first transparent, then serous, very abundant and evil-smelling, excessive salivation (chin and chest are constantly wet);
  • multiple sores filled with liquid appear on the tongue, lips, palate and nose. They cause discomfort to the pet: when the calicivirus is in the initial stage, the owners suppose that pet choked or something stuck in its throat (the cat chews food very carefully and constantly clears its throat, as if to get rid of bone stuck). Gums become inflamed, swollen; pale or redden. Bubbles burst, the wounds hurt, bleed and don’t heal. Cat’s mouth smells with rot;
  • the apparent loss of appetite, lethargy, apathy to everything is observed. Sometimes sick cats suffer from diarrhea that is in 2-3 days replaced with constipation. Vomiting is possible at the first stage of the disease.

 Feline calicivirus often affects cat’s airways: dry cough, sneezing, wheezing in the chest, shortness of breath, pneumonia, bronchitis and pulmonary edema may appear. If the virus enters the brain, a week after the occurrence of the abovementioned symptoms, one may notice convulsions, incoordination, unassured step, aggressive behavior and irrational fear. Chronic calicivirus may be asymptomatic, rarely with slight discharge from the nose and eyes, lameness, easy apathy. At the slightest immune system stress the disease transform in its acute form.


 The greatest danger this disease cause in little kittens and debilitated animals. The incubation period of calicivirus in newborn babies lasts for less than a day. Unfortunately, if the cat had not been vaccinated against the virus, the probability of death in the brood is about 80%. Adult pets with strong immune system survive in 70% of cases, in case their owners ask a vet for help and the treatment starts before the condition of the pet is complicated by secondary infections. Elderly or debilitated cats die in 50% of cases, even when the treatment is right and timely.

Diagnosis and treatment

 Symptomatically feline calicivirus in kittens and adult animals is similar to many other diseases, including gingivitis, panleukopenia, herpes and even rabies. Of course, you must pass tests to identify the causative agent, but the treatment should be started immediately. So everything depends on how experienced the veterinarian is. Typically, first the symptoms are cured and then broad spectrum antibiotics are prescribed. Since the treatment against calicivirus in cats is long and tedious, it is important to support the pet immunity with stimulants and vitamins. To prevent dehydration and exhaustion in case of complete feed refusal some nutrient solutions are prescribed.


 It is imperative that feline calicivirus treatment should not be interrupted after apparent improvement. Sometimes after two or three days the cat seems perfectly healthy, the owners stop “torturing” the pet with injections. As a result, the disease returns; and at relapse the chances of recovery are very small.


 Incompetent people are spreading the information that feline calicivirus is dangerous to humans. That’s not true. The disease is species-specific, that is, the virus affects only cats. It is absolutely safe for humans, dogs and other pets. So do not be afraid of contagion, there is no need to protect your family from convalescent cats whose fate depends largely on the quality of aftercare procedures.
 As panleukopenia, feline calicivirus exhausts the vital force of the pet, so it is important that the cat was well fed and ate only digestible foods. The diet should be appointed by a veterinarian. It is equally important that the cat was kept clean – you need to change the litter every day and air the room. The secretions from the eyes and nose must be timely removal, you should also clean the coat and debride sores in the mouth.


 The word “calicivirus” causes almost panic in people who have already faced this disease. It is a very serious disease, accompanied with pain, debilitating your pet and shortening the duration of its life. During the treatment, the cat can’t be left alone, as it is necessary to monitor the condition of the pet continuously. In this period the animal needs careful care and moral support. Therefore, vaccination against feline calicivirus is the best preventive measure. Of course, you need to protect the cat from unwanted contacts and keep the necessary hygiene level, but because the disease is highly contagious, ideal conditions aren’t enough to guarantee safety. Vaccination is the best preventing method, and it should be carried out annually. It is much better to choose complex drugs for the vaccination. Kittens are usually vaccinated at the age of nine to twelve weeks.


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