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Ask the Vet: Feline Herpes Virus Not Contagious to Humans

Dr. Lee Pickett on

Q: Our new cat, Lily, has an upper respiratory infection and goopy eyes. Her veterinarian said these problems are probably caused by a herpes virus that often infects cats. Is this virus contagious to us humans?

A: No, herpes viruses are species-specific. That means humans and dogs don't catch the cat herpes virus, called feline herpesvirus-1 or FHV-1, and cats and dogs don't get the human herpes viruses.

Even people whose immune systems are weakened by cancer chemotherapy, immunosuppressive drugs or the human immunodeficiency virus don't have to worry about catching other species' herpes viruses.

FHV-1 is one of the most common viral causes of sneezing, nasal discharge and eye disease in cats. The disease it causes is called rhinotracheitis, essentially a cold like the one Lily has, except that many cats also experience lethargy, loss of appetite and fever.

The virus is easily transmitted among cats, especially young cats that haven't been vaccinated and live in a crowded environment.

Once infected, almost all cats carry herpes virus in their bodies for the remainder of their lives. Many carriers develop another episode of rhinotracheitis when they are stressed.

Stressful events include moving to a new home, dealing with new cats or dogs in the family, fighting another disease or undergoing major surgery. Medications that suppress the immune system, such as corticosteroids, also can provoke another bout of rhinotracheitis.

After Lily recovers from her infection, keep her healthy and minimize stress by following your veterinarian's recommendations. Have your vet vaccinate her against feline viral rhinotracheitis, the "FVR" in the FVRCP vaccination. Ensure that she stays inside, away from diseased cats, predators and other risks.

Q: I want to adopt a dog, but I'm not sure I can afford to care for one. How costly is it?

 

A: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA, estimates an initial, one-time cost of $1,030 and yearly costs of $1,391. They add an annual dental cleaning at $500 and professional grooming of $300 per year for a first-year total of $3,221.

The one-time cost includes initial veterinary care, microchip, sterilization, collar/harness/leash, crate/carrier and the first obedience training course. Excluded from the calculation is the adoption fee or purchase price of the dog.

Routine lifelong costs include dog food, treats, semiannual or annual veterinary exams, booster vaccinations, lab work, year-round heartworm/flea/tick preventive, professional dental cleaning, dog license, toys, training, health insurance, and grooming supplies or professional grooming.

These ASPCA estimates assume the dog remains healthy throughout life, but that's usually not the case, so you should add veterinary care for illnesses and long-term medications to your budget. Additional expenses may include specialty food and supplements, a dog walker or doggie daycare for long work days, and a pet sitter or boarding kennel when you go on vacation.

The adoption fee at many shelters and rescue organizations includes sterilization, a microchip and initial vaccinations, which will save you some money. For additional ways to save on veterinary care, email me at vet@askthevet.pet.

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Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at https://askthevet.pet.

Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

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