Feline herpes virus is a species-specific, non-zoonotic virus that is commonly diagnosed in cats. Although not transmissible to humans, this virus is highly contagious to other cats. It is said that the majority of cats have been exposed to feline herpes virus, but not all will show symptoms. Often, symptoms occur more frequently in purebred (Persian, Himalayan, Siamese, etc.) and rescued cats (farm, stray, humane society, etc.), due to weaker immune systems and stressful situations. Similar to the way the human body reacts to viruses, stress is one of the biggest causes of a flare-up.

Your veterinarian may diagnose your cat based on symptoms alone, or may suggest having a test performed by an outside laboratory. Testing is not commonly done, due to cost and the possibility of false negatives. Your veterinarian will also decide if your cat’s symptoms are truly due to the herpes virus and not another underlying cause, such as bacteria.

Symptoms that are commonly seen may include upper respiratory problems (coughing, sneezing), tearing and/or squinting eyes, conjunctivitis (an inflammation or redness of the lining of the white part of the eye and the underside of the eyelid (conjunctiva), and sometimes corneal ulcers (an open sore on the cornea—the thin clear structure overlying the iris—which is the colored part of the eye). If these symptoms are left untreated, they can cause permanent effects.

Oral L-lysine, an amino acid nutraceutical that inhibits viral replication, is commonly prescribed for patients with herpes. L-lysine may be recommended for short term or lifelong use. There are many forms available “over the counter,” as well as veterinary-specific forms. The veterinary-specific forms may include tablets, powder, and paste, which are much more palatable and readily accepted by cats. Also, depending on the severity of the symptoms, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-viral medications and/or an appropriate antibiotic. 

As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest causes of a flare-up is stress. Keeping a relatively stress-free home is ideal. A move, vacation, or even a growing family may be fun and exciting to us, but can be extremely stressful to your cat. Plan ahead and talk with your veterinarian before an upcoming, stress-inducing event to help your furry friend live a long, comfortable life. 


Comments (4) -

Linda Barnett
Linda BarnettUnited States
2/28/2014 7:04:41 PM #

My cat Bubble, was a rescue kitten from the shelter. He was 8 weeks old when we got him.  We had him about 2 weeks and he started showing signs of an upper respiratory infection,  up on further investigation by the vet,  we found out that he had the herpes feline virus and an ulcer on one of his eyes.  He was treated with 3 different medications,  2 eye drops and one was a pill. He was on all 3 meds until the ulcer was gone.  He is almost 2 yrs old now and the only thing that the ulcer done to his eye was caused a small cloudy spot on his pupil.  He is on L-Lysine every other day unless he gets stressed out and then he gets it every day.  It is the form of a paste and he likes it,  not only that but it really does work.
I honestly have to say that he has the best vet in this town,  I don't know what I would have done if it hadn't been for her.

Nancy Smith
Nancy SmithUnited States
12/23/2014 1:53:32 PM #


Golda Steinberg
Golda Steinberg United States
12/23/2014 1:54:14 PM #

Linda Barnett. I have rescue kitten from the shelter. I think he has the same problem as yours kitten. I did show him to 2 vets, but the ointment and eye pills don't help.  What kind of 3 different medication your vet prescribed? We moved to very removed area in NC and don't have a lot of vets. Please, help me.

ChristineUnited States
1/24/2016 9:02:07 AM #

Hello - I own a pet supply store and have seen no improvement in symptoms for cats with herpes virus with Lysine supplementation, though immune support has shown us almost immediate improvement in symptoms such as respiratory and eye issues. So, I did some digging, and saw this fairly recent paper suggesting that Lysine is ineffective in cats for FHV-1 and in fact may be detrimental or even dangerous. Thought I'd pass it along in case you hadn't seen it yet. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4647294/
All the Best

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