Intestinal Virus (Reovirus) Infection in Cats


PetMD Editorial

Published Feb. 12, 2009

Reovirus Infections in Cats

The reovirus is generally found in the cat's intestinal walls, destroying any cells in its surrounding area. Caused by a group of viruses that contain double-stranded RNA (ribonucleic acid), a reovirus infection limits the absorption of nutrients from the intestines and results in diarrhea and dehydration.

The virus is transmitted through contact with infected feces, or by inhalation of airborne virus particles. These viruses can suppress the immune system, causing the affected animal to develop various infections. The cat's outward conditions, meanwhile, will vary and depend on the type of reovirus.

Reovirus infections can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn how this intestinal virus affects dogs, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.

Symptoms and Types

A cat with a reovirus infection will usually have mild symptoms such as diarrhea and gum inflammation (gingivitis). However, it may succumb to more serious complications, including conjunctivitis, respiratory illnesses, loss of balance, muscle tremors, and ataxia.


Your veterinarian will conduct a full physical examination and complete blood profile on the cat, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. Diagnostic procedures will be aimed at differentiating a reoviral infection from other milder respiratory infections that are caused by bacteria.

Your doctor will also need to include a detailed study of the tissue characteristics, along with the viral structure, in order to confirm a diagnosis.


As it is generally not a life threatening condition, reovirus vaccines have not been developed and medications are usually not prescribed. Treatment, instead, will focus on ensuring your cat remains hydrated, that its airways are clear, and that its nervous system is functioning properly.

If any of the cat's body systems are disordered, your veterinarian will prescribe medication to treat its specific ailment.

Living and Management

Follow your veterinarian's advice and avoid exposing any other healthy pets to your cat. Some reoviruses are contagious, even infect children and infants at times. Therefore, it probably best to isolate your cat until it has recovered.

Be aware that some respiratory symptoms may return during your pet's recovery period. If these complications should become serious, bring your cat back to the veterinarian immediately.

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