What is Rhinotracheitis (FVR) – Feline Herpes Virus?

What is Rhinotracheitis (FVR) – Feline Herpes Virus?

Rhinotracheitis (FVR) is caused by the feline herpes virus. It’s a common disease in cats worldwide and causes an upper respiratory infection.

The virus is highly contagious and can be cat-to-cat transmitted by nose, eyes and ingestion. In can be indirect contact such as food and water bowls, bedding, etc. Being among other infected cats, crowded conditions, physical or emotional stress can all increase the risk of infection.

In most cases it’s not lethal and tends to pass in two weeks. Immune challenged cats such as young kittens, ill or stressed cats are likely to experience more severe symptoms.

Rhinotracheitis creates respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, nasal discharge, inflammation of the nose (rhinitis), coughing, watery eyes, inflammation of the eyelid lining (conjunctivitis), fever, loss of appetite in part due to diminished smell. In some cases a cat may develop corneal ulcers on the eyes.

Approximately 80% of infected cats will become lifelong carrier of the virus and can become symptomatic numerous times.

Rhinotracheitis can be detected with lab tests, tho, often in milder cases, a Vet may rely on health history and symptomology.


As far as treatment, there are a number of options. Your main goal is to keep the eyes and nasal passages clear. For eyes it’s mostly tending to the discharge using a clean cloth. For the nose, a nasal decongestant may be helpful. The easiest treatment (for you and your cat) is to increase the humidity. You can use a humidifier or simply bring the cat in the bathroom with you when you take a hot shower.

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Make sure you cat gets enough food and water. This can be challenging since cats rely heavily on smell to get them eating. Since their sense of smell is diminished, you can make their food more “smelly”. So something like tuna. You can sit with and hand feed your cat but force feeding – while getting food in him – creates a lot of stress. You want to reduce stress as much as possible and keep your companion warm and quiet. Antibiotics are sometimes indicated to control secondary infections such as pneumonia. And Antiviral eye ointments or drops may be indicated if there are cornela ulcers. In most cases, the infection will run its course in a week to 10 days.


Prevention from infection is a bit difficult since the virus is so common and easily spread. A cat can be infected with the virus and not develop symptoms. Good nutrition and a low stress clean environment lead to a strong immune system.

There is also a vaccine. It does not provide immunity against infection but seems to decrease the incidence and severity of disease. It should be received before any infection. It’s commonly given as a core vaccine – typically the “3-in-1” which includes Panleukopenia, Rhinotracheitis and Calici Virus vaccines.