In humans, cold and flu bugs are easily spread due to coughing and sneezing. It is just the same with cats and dogs. Dogs suffer from a para-influenza virus, which causes flu-like symptoms such as aching joints, sneezing, a high temperature, coughing and conjunctivitis. Luckily dogs can be protected against this in their annual vaccination.
Unfortunately, fewer cat owners have their cats vaccinated compared to dogs so cat flu is still quite common. The two viruses that cause cat flu can both be protected against in the cat’s annual vaccination. Vaccinated female cats (queens) pass anti-bodies to their kittens through their milk. This protects the kittens until they are old enough to have their initial course of vaccination injections at 9 and 12 weeks. If queens are not vaccinated then the young kittens will have no protection and are very susceptible to infection.
The viruses that cause cat flu attach to the lining of the nose and damage the cells that protect the bones in the nose. This can lead to further bacterial infections, which can cause permanent damage to the nose resulting in the cat having trouble for the rest of its life. If this happens, the cat is likely to suffer from a condition called chronic rhinitis, more commonly know as "snuffles", where the cat suffers from a continuous blocked nose.
The virus can also attack the eyes and cause conjunctivitis giving the cat very sore, red eyes. This can quickly lead to more serious damage through an infection on the surface of the eyes called kerantitis and this can result in permanent blindness.
The cat flu virus also causes ulcers in the mouth. Mouth ulcers are painful for cats and in conjunction with a lack of sense of smell, most cats with flu are anorexic and cannot fight an infection properly as they lack the energy to do it. At worst, the virus can attack further into the respiratory system so it causes an infection in the lungs causing pneumonia. Pneumonia can result in permanent lung damage and can be fatal.
The cat flu virus not only attacks young kittens but also adult cats and spreads quickly via coughing and sneezing. This is why cattery owners will only take in cats that are up-to-date with their vaccinations. Accordingly, make sure your pets' vaccinations are kept up-to-date so that they don’t spend a miserable winter with blocked and runny noses like us.