Feline Herpes can Cause Severe Eye Disease & Death

Question:

We have recently taken home 3 kittens to nurse them back to health. Two of them are healthy, but one is much smaller than her siblings, and doesn’t play or anything.  She is about 7 weeks old.  Her eyes have been getting hard, crusty stuff in them (sometimes yellow), and it looks like something has formed on the outside of one eye.

 

Dr. Nichol:

You are doing a kind thing to care for these homeless kittens. That sick baby may be in serious trouble. None of these kids has a fully competent immune system yet; infections can spread quickly. All 3 kittens should be examined ASAP.

 

Most likely it was their mother who exposed them to the most common infectious disease of cats: feline herpes virus (FHV-1). Herpes usually invades through the conjunctiva (the pink tissue surrounding the eyes). Most kittens and adult cats will eventually get over their discharges and sneezing but 80% of them retain the virus permanently, as latent infections, in the nerves of their faces.

 

Dehydration and secondary bacterial infection are likely  to be part of your sick baby’s misery. The lesion on her eye is another serious sign. Treatment may involve fluids, oral and topical antibiotics, along with l-lysine. A more potent antiviral treatment, topical alpha interferon, may be necessary. Pain relievers like atropine or malbuphine drops will help her eyes feel better.

 

Those eye lesions may get much worse if they’re not treated soon. A kitten can die from dehydration and failure to eat. She needs medical attention right away.