Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy

or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

PetMD Seal

Feline Herpesvirus 1 (FHV-1) Infection - Head Cold in Cats

Feline Rhinotracheitis Virus Infection (Rhinitis) in Cats

Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR) is an upper respiratory infection of the nose and throat in cats. It is caused by, and also know as feline herpesvirus 1 (FHV-1). Cats of all ages are susceptible, but kittens are at a higher risk and may be infected at about five weeks of age. Pregnant cats or those suffering from a lowered immunity due to a pre-existing disease are also at higher risk.


Symptoms and Types


Some infected cats can remain without symptoms, yet act as carriers and spread the infection to other non-infected cats. The following symptoms may also be sporadic in a FHV-1 carrier:


  • Sudden, uncontrollable attacks of sneezing
  • Watery or pus containing nasal discharge
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Spasm of the eyelid muscle resulting in closure of the eye (blepharospasm)
  • Eye discharge
  • Inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Keratitis (inflammation of the cornea causing watery painful eyes and blurred vision)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • General malaise
  • Loss of pregnancy




This condition is caused by an infection with the feline herpesvirus 1 infection. It is common in multicat households or animal kennels due to overcrowding. Poor ventilation, poor sanitation, poor nutrition, or physical or psychological stress are other important risk factors for acquiring FHV-1.




You will need to give a detailed history of your cat’s health, along with the onset and nature of the symptoms. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam to evaluate all body systems, and to evaluate the overall health of your cat. Routine tests include a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. In some patients the complete blood count may reveal temporary low numbers of white blood cells (WBCs), termed as leukopenia, followed by an increase in the number of these cells, termed leukocytosis.


More advanced tests are available for the detection of FHV-1; your veterinarian can take samples of secretions from the nose and eyes of the cat to send to the laboratory for confirmation. Samples taken from the conjunctiva of the eye are stained to detect the intranuclear inclusion bodies -- the viruses that are present in the nucleus of the cells seen in some viral infections. X-rays are also helpful in determining changes in the nasal cavity, especially those due to chronic infections.





Related Articles

Cat Leukemia (Feline Leukemia Virus)

Feline leukemia virus (aka FeLV or simply “cat leukemia”) is the leading cause of death in household cats. Learn about the symptoms and treatment...

Feline Calicivirus Infection in Cats

Feline calicivirus infection is a common respiratory disease in cats. It is highly communicable in unvaccinated cats and is commonly seen in...

Bacterial Infection (Mycoplasma, Ureaplasma, Acoleplasma) in Cats

Mycoplasma, ureaplasma and acoleplasma are three types of a class of bacterial parasitic microorganisms that can cause infections in cats. Learn...

FIV or Feline AIDS in Cats

The feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection is a complex retrovirus that causes immunodeficiency disease in domestic cats. Learn more about...