Love May Not Last Forever but Herpes Does: A Guide to Understanding and Managing FHV in Cats

Love May Not Last Forever but Herpes Does: A Guide to Understanding and Managing FHV in Cats

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Feline herpesvirus (FHV), also known as feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), is a common respiratory infection that affects cats worldwide. Understanding the virus, its transmission, symptoms, and the importance of testing is crucial for every responsible cat owner. I have seen some terrible cases of FHV in my 25 years of practice, especially is rescue kittens. This is a vaccine preventable disease. After treating WAY too many cases of Herpes, we created a rapid test to diagnose this devastating condition. The thing about Herpes is it is forever. We can prevent it with vaccines and we can manage flare ups (hopefully) but we can't give your cat medication and make it go away. Environmental changes, stress and other medical conditions can and will cause flare ups. Here is essential information about feline herpesvirus and the significance of testing to protect the health of your beloved kitty companion and their beautiful eyes.


What is Feline Herpesvirus (FHV)?

Feline herpesvirus is a highly contagious viral infection that primarily affects the respiratory system of cats. It is caused by the feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1) and can lead to symptoms such as sneezing, nasal discharge, and conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyes).


FHV is typically spread through close contact with infected cats. It can be transmitted through respiratory droplets or direct contact with ocular or nasal secretions. Kittens can acquire the virus from their infected mothers during birth or through nursing.


The symptoms of feline herpesvirus can vary, ranging from mild to severe. Some common symptoms may include:

  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Conjunctivitis (redness, swelling, and discharge from the eyes)
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Ulcers on the tongue or lips (in severe cases).

It's important to note that these symptoms can also be indicative of other respiratory infections, so proper testing is crucial for an accurate diagnosis. 

Testing for Feline Herpesvirus (FHV):

Testing for FHV is important for accurate diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and preventing the spread of the virus. The following tests are commonly used:

1. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Test:

The PCR test is a highly sensitive and specific diagnostic tool that can detect the presence of FHV-1 DNA in a cat's respiratory secretions or ocular swabs. It can identify an active infection, even in cats that may not be showing clinical signs. The PCR test is usually performed at diagnostic laboratories - this test is included in the Kedi Labs Spectra PCR: Respiratory Infection panel for cats.

2. Serological Testing:

Serological testing involves detecting antibodies against FHV-1 in a cat's blood sample. This type of testing can determine if a cat has been exposed to the virus in the past. However, it may not distinguish between an active or past infection.

3. Rapid Antigen Testing:

The Kedi Labs Feline Herpes Virus (FHV) rapid test can determine the presence of FHV antigens in an ocular or nasal sample from your cat in less than 10 minutes.


Preventing the spread of FHV is essential for the health and well-being of cats. Here are some preventive measures you can take:

  • Vaccination: Vaccination is an essential preventive measure against FHV. Consult with your veterinarian to ensure your cat is up to date on vaccinations.
  • Isolation: If you have a cat diagnosed with FHV, keep them separated from other cats to prevent transmission.
  • Hygiene practices: Practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands before and after handling cats, especially if you have been in contact with an infected cat.

Management and Care:

There is no cure for feline herpesvirus, but supportive care can help manage the symptoms and reduce the severity of outbreaks. Your veterinarian may recommend antiviral medications, eye drops, or other treatments to alleviate the symptoms and prevent secondary infections. Creating a stress-free environment for your cat and ensuring they have a balanced diet and proper hydration can also aid in their recovery.

Regular Veterinary Check-ups:

Regular veterinary check-ups are crucial for monitoring your cat's health, discussing preventive measures, and addressing any concerns or questions you may have. Your veterinarian can provide personalized advice based on your cat's specific needs and circumstances.

Please note that the information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not replace professional veterinary advice. Always consult with a veterinarian for specific concerns regarding your pet's health.

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