Chronic Nasal Discharge Indicates Serious Disease

Antibiotics are Necessary but so is a Clear Diagnosis


I have a cat that falls into the “feral cat living in a confined space” definition!  Rosebud lives in my house but is not tame.  She has sounded like a “wet head” for the past few years.  But now, she has real congestion with yellowish nasal drainage.  I have been crushing antibiotics and mixing them into baby food for her for several days and do not see any improvement.  Should I be looking for something else?


Dr. Nichol:

Poor Rosebud has a serious upper respiratory disease. Without a clear diagnosis and appropriate treatment her condition will worsen. Some chronically sick cats fail to get well because of feline leukemia virus (Felv) or feline AIDS (FIV) infections. Either of these viruses can suppress the immune system. Rosebud’s persistent nasal discharge may also be a red flag for dental disease, fungal infection, polyps, cancer, or a foreign body like plant material.


There is no doubt that antibiotics are needed but casting about for the magic drug could establish a resistant bacterial strain. The correct antibiotic is best determined by culturing the discharge. Even then the sheer volume of all that pus inside Rosebud’s nasal tissues can overwhelm the most potent medication.


Your scared cat is difficult to handle, but she still needs to be examined. Rosebud should be blood tested to check for Felv and FIV. An injectable anesthetic will allow the doctor to handle this girl without stressing her. Biopsies can be taken, irrigation of the nasal passages and x-rays of her head can also be done at the time.


Depending on what may be underlying Rosebud’s infection, she could do just fine. Some cats with chronic respiratory disease get frequent courses of antibiotics. A few need daily treatment for life. You’ve been good to Rosebud. Don’t give up now.





Feline Herpes Infection is Highly Contagious


A friend in Seattle has a 5 month old Ragdoll kitten. He has herpes and he sneezes and has runny eyes all the time. In all other ways he is normal. This lady may visit with her cat and I am concerned for my cat. Will her cat’s sneezing stop? The breeder says it will with age.


Dr. Nichol:

You are right to be concerned for your kitty. Feline herpes virus (FHV-1), also known as feline viral rhinotracheitis, is the most important cause of upper respiratory disease in cats. While there are often secondary organisms that get their licks in too, cats who are sick with this virus often have fits of sneezing, coughing, discharge from the eyes and nose, squinting, poor appetite, inactivity, and fever. They can get mighty sick. Kittens, as well as adult cats with other chronic illnesses, can die from FHV-1.


This is a highly contagious disease; cats living in multi-cat households, shelters, and other indoor environments are at particular risk. Even if your own kitty is well vaccinated he may still be vulnerable-the FVR vaccine helps but it isn’t bullet-proof.


It is true that many cats will stop sneezing and feel better after 7-10 days but, just like the human variety of herpes, some carry the virus for a lifetime in their nervous systems. Periodic fare-ups, including severe eye disease in a few cases, can reoccur periodically, most commonly following a stress like travel. Your friend’s kitty should stay home in Seattle and enjoy the rain. Cats in their own homes aren’t crazy about making new friends anyway.