My vet diagnosed one of my kittens with a corneal ulcer on the edge of his cornea. He mentioned it being like the cat version of the herpes virus. Now the other kitten has quite watery eyes. Is it contagious and if so how can I stop them just passing it back and forth forever?!
Tooting, United Kingdom
Watery eyes, often combined with sneezing, sniffling and nasal discharge, are the hallmarks of respiratory infections in kittens.
The most common causes of feline respiratory (or eye) infections sound like sexually transmitted diseases. They are not. Feline herpes virus is number one. Less often, infections with feline Chlamydia cause similar symptoms.
Feline herpes sometimes can be diagnosed with a corneal stain. Your vet did this. We therefore know that your kittens are infected with herpes.
Feline herpes virus is ubiquitous. Although it technically is contagious (highly so), it doesn’t always behave in a contagious fashion. That’s because almost every cat on earth already is infected and therefore can’t be infected again.
Feline herpes virus infections are life long. Many cats suffer from a single eye or respiratory infection as kittens, and then suppress the virus for the rest of their lives. Other cats experience intermittent problems from the virus throughout their lives.
Your kittens’ immune systems will have to suppress the infections. You can help this process by offering them plenty of food, water, companionship, and love–things that are good for the immune system. Supplementation with the naturally occurring amino acid L-lysine may also help.
Severe cases of herpes can be treated with antiviral drugs. Fortunately, these drugs usually aren’t necessary. Most kittens recover from respiratory infections without them.
Read more about respiratory infections on my website:
Photo: Alamo Schmo’s eyes look good.