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Cat flu - what to expect?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I'm new to the boards!

Please bear with me, I'll try to make it as short as possible!

We just picked up the sweetest 8yo female from the local Humane Society on Saturday. From what we know, she had been with the same family all her life until their kid started having bad allergies.

She seemed completely healthy while at the shelter but as soon as we got her home, she started sneezing. I took her to the vet on Monday and she diagnosed her with a rhino -something... "Cat Flu"! She also went into these serious coughing fits, looking as if she was going to cough up a hairball but nothing came out. She did a couple of these coughs while being and examined and the vet seemed a little puzzled and said it might be mild asthma.

Now that I'm reading up on the cat flu, seems relatively normal to have them cough some... isn't it? She doesn't wheeze or breathe heavily.

The last time I heard her have a coughing fit was Tuesday night. She still does little coughs but now seems just very congested. She sneezes alot and seems a little more lethargic (still eating and drinking).

Are these all flu symptoms or is anything throwing up red flags, considering she's been out of the shelter for 4-5 days? How long does it usually take to get better? I was thinking to wait and see how she is tonight (I'm at work during the day) and call the vet if the congestion is any worse again. Does that make sense?

Sorry so long... just worried about my sweet new little darling.
post #2 of 18
Welcome to our site!

The fact that she came from a shelter I'm suprized that the vet didn't think it was a URI. (it's pretty common when alot of cats share the same space) are her eyes runny and nose crusty?
post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks Miss Mew! (my parents used to call me that as a kid! lol)

The vet does think she has a URI but seemed to think the coughing was unrelated...? (I`m not liking this vet too much...)

She had just clear watery discharge from her nose and started having just a little more crusty eyes yesterday (they were perfectly clear up to then).

Also, the vet didn't prescribe any medications and said to just let it run its course. Is that common?
post #4 of 18
I would go and visit another vet. She should have antibotics to help clear up the infection.
post #5 of 18
Most of the respiratory illnesses in cats are viral based, and antibiotics do nothing for viruses. Many vets do prescribe antibiotics when they suspect a virus simply to ward off any opportunistic bacterial infection that may come along because their immunity system is down. Most people don't understand this.

My vet also didn't prescribe things when they had a cold and his reasons were that, like humans, cats can develop immunity to a drug that they take and he would rather save antibiotics for the times when they really needed them. That said, he would cross the line an prescribe antibiotics when they were VERY sick, and I got to recognize that bridge over time and would demand antibiotics for those occassions.

Think of how you treat yourself when you have a bad cold: vaporizers and a lot of rest. Every cat owner needs a good working vaporizer. If you can't afford one, bring her in the bathroom when you take a good steamy shower. You can't give them over the counter medicines.

My advice: get a vaporizer and isolate her in a bedroom with it for a few days to see if it is clearing up. If not, call your vet and see they would prescribe some medicine. Coming from a shelter, you really don't know what she was exposed to.
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
By vaporizer, you mean something that makes steam? (sorry, first language is French... a "humidificateur?")

I do understand the difference between viral and bacterial infections. But when or how do I know her infection may be bacterial?
post #7 of 18
Rhinotracheitis is a virus so antibiotics won't help at all! Your vet would have been wrong to prescribe them. You can help boost your cat's immune system and fight off the virus by feeding L-lysine as a supplement, if you do a forum search for L-Lysine you will find lots of information about it.

Also if she is stuffed up and can't smell her food she may not want to eat it, if this does happen you can help by heating up some kind of canned food, the smellier the better, if it's warm it will smell more and she will find it more appetising.
post #8 of 18
Originally Posted by Maki View Post
By vaporizer, you mean something that makes steam? (sorry, first language is French... a "humidificateur?")

I do understand the difference between viral and bacterial infections. But when or how do I know her infection may be bacterial?
Yes - humidifier!
post #9 of 18
A few years ago all 5 of my cats got cat flu, as well as my b/f and myself having colds at the same time - it was a fun 2 weeks!

None of them were given any antibiotics, they all got blocked noses and sneezes, runny eyes, the same as our human colds.

Keeping the cats eating was our first concern, as someone already said they stop eating if they can't smell the food, we would make our bathroom all steamed up twice a day, then the lovely job of picking dried cat snot out of there noses, then they were put in the steamed up room and fed 10 minutes later.

I don't remember any of mine getting a cough though.

I was really worried about them but they all got better, just needed some extra love and care.

It took about 2 -3 weeks for full recovery.
post #10 of 18
I fundamentally disagree with Epona that antibiotics won't help at all. Yes URI's and Rhinotracheitis are viral infections but cats are very susceptible to secondary bacterial infections - so much so that supportive treatment with antibiotics like clavamox is a widely accepted practice at least in the usa. Any issues of potential resistance later should be secondary to the *real* and present condition.

Coughing indicates possible lung involvement and as such is more serious than a garden variety URI. Yes L-lysine can be helpful, much later as it takes a month or more to work (its added to prevent and reduce the severity of recurrences of rhino...

Yes a humidifier might help, as might a once or twice a day gentle squirt of plain (non-medicated) saline solution (available in a little squirt bottle) in drug stores. I also agree that loss of appetite is possible and should be guarded against as Epona advises, but again, I believe she is wrong about the "non-use" of an antibiotic.
post #11 of 18
Thread Starter 
Just wanted to say that the vet did listen to her lungs and she said she couldn't detect anything abnormal.

For the moment she's still eating well and all mucus is still watery and clear. At what point would you head back to the vet?
post #12 of 18
Stephen - I take your point about secondary bacterial infections completely.

I just want to say that it's not me you disagree with per se, but the UK's attitude and policy when it comes to giving antibiotics.

I don't know if you're aware that we have a huge problem in the UK with antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, due to past overuse of antibiotics, which have been linked as much to the overuse of antibiotics in animals (especially livestock) as in humans.

5,000 (I think I read in the paper this morning) people died last year in hospitals from infection with just one strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (MRSA), many of these were people who went in for routine procedures, and treating it is extremely difficult because it is not killed by antibiotics. One friend's dad died of MRSA after having fairly non-complicated keyhole surgery. Another friend's mum caught it in hospital but managed to fight it off thankfully. All our hospitals are infected with it. MRSA is a resistant strain of the very common Staphylococcus Aureus, and it is also killing cats and other animals, cats are particularly vulnerable to it. It would be unlikely to have developed had antibiotics not been over-prescribed in the past.

It is now a policy to prevent any more strains developing by not prescribing antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.
post #13 of 18
My cat just got a URI from some family cats that had recently been adopted from shelters. My vet did prescribe Clavamox -- as you note, not for the viral infection itself, but in case there were secondary bacterial infections. The vet who treated the other two cats did the same. I was glad the cat was getting it, because he seemed in a bad way... he wasn't eating or drinking, he was feverish and lethargic... so it seems entirely possible that he was at risk for serious bacterial infections.

The vet also gave a subcutaneous injection of saline, to keep the cat from suffering from dehydration. I thought this measure unusual, but I was glad she'd done it when the cat wouldn't drink or eat for a few days.

I understand the risks of resistant antibiotic strains, but as far as I know my cat has never had antibiotics before. Animals are treated with antibiotics less frequently in the course of their lives than humans are. So as long as you make sure to give the full course of antibiotics, I think it's safe.

My cat is doing some sporadic coughing, if that helps you figure your cat's condition at all. I think it's to clear congestion out of his throat, or possibly because his throat is sore. The other cats' vet said one was experiencing asthma-like symptoms, too... maybe a URI can trigger asthma symptoms? I don't know.
post #14 of 18
If antibiotics are NOT used, there is a good possibility that other problems may develop.

The nose can become so plugged up that the cat can not smell her food. As a result, she will not eat or drink, which then could possibly lead to dehydration and other problems.

Please, consider taking your cat to another vet, get some antibiotics and help her get over this problem, then we all can decide what would be best later on.
post #15 of 18
Ahhh thank you for the clarification. We also have a big problem with staph infections in hospitals. My own doctor caught one and was hospitalized for 3 weeks with a strain resistant to antibiotics. I am not aware of the problem in cats at this point in the usa....

post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 
emmylou - thanks for sharing your experience, makes me feel a little better about her symptoms. She does swallow after every cough so I'm thinking she's clearing mucous.

Seeing she`s been getting worse, I'll most likely take her back to the vet office today and hopefully they'll give me antibiotics.
post #17 of 18
Definitely take her back in if she's getting worse! I hope you manage to get her well very soon.
post #18 of 18
Thread Starter 
I'm taking her for sure.

I didn't want to go on a panick and figured we get worse before we get better but with her showing her 3rd eyelid, I don't want to "wait and see".

This "free" cat sure is costing me alot but I just want her to get better. I'm so worried about her.
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