Why Does My Cat Have Constant Sniffles?

A vet explains how the herpes virus (feline herpesvirus) can cause constant sniffles in cats and how to treat them.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM

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Savannah Cat Sneezing -- Get Help for Constantly Sniffling Cats
A cat that can't shake the sneezes likely has a viral infection or cat herpesvirus.

Q: My 10-year-old indoor tabby cat has a stuffy nose and is sneezing. She was on Baytril when she first got sick, and the medicine cleared it up.

Three months later it came back.

She then took azithromycin and L-lysine, which cleared it up.

Three months later it came back again.

Our cat's vet says a virus in her immune system, like herpes, causes my cat's sneezing and stuffy nose and she’ll never get rid of it. A complete blood count and X-rays all came back OK. Do you have any other ideas to help her? Has my vet given up?

A: It sounds like your cat has a recurrent herpes virus infection. Most kittens experience a viral upper respiratory infection at some point in their kittenhood. The main viral culprit is the rhinotracheitis virus, which is a herpes virus, a.k.a. herpesvirus. The kitten usually recovers, but the virus is not eliminated from the body. Herpes viruses, as most people know, have the frustrating characteristic of being able to stay in the body forever. Occasionally, the dormant virus can re-emerge later in life and cause clinical signs — sneezing, nasal and eye discharge, etc. — especially during times of stress.

Learn more on feline herpesvirus here >>

Antibiotics help defeat or prevent any secondary bacterial infections, and L-lysine helps the virus go back to being dormant more quickly. In most cats, the virus stays dormant for months or years and causes no problems at all. In other cats, especially those that are immunosuppressed (for example, cats with feline leukemia virus or the feline immunodeficiency virus), the virus can re-emerge at any time and cause clinical signs. Make sure your cat has been tested properly for FeLV and FIV. Cats that are prone to recurrent herpes virus infections may benefit from receiving L-lysine every day. As an amino acid, L-lysine would cause no harm if given every day.

See more reasons why cats sneeze here >>

Read more articles by Dr. Arnold Plotnick here >>

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Reader Comments

Michalle    Portland, OR

5/21/2013 1:33:04 PM

My tortie, Calliecat Purrheart, has flare ups of sneezing. She was a shelter rescue and came with a kitty cold, which is common for shelter cats. I will definitely try L-lysineon her.

Cindy    Ellwood City,, PA

5/17/2013 4:44:07 AM

Thank you for educating us on this virus. And for recommending L-Lysine. I have been giving this to our cats for a year now and it really does help.

M    Lake City, FL

5/10/2013 11:59:43 PM

Thanks for sharing the very important and interesting info!

Jillian    Old Hickory, TN

5/7/2013 1:55:02 PM

I give my sneezy cat Lysine in a powder form. It's called Viralys. I got the first jar from my vet but she also told me that it is available on Amazon. I get it there now because it is slightly cheaper. It has helped so much & know Shady doesn't have nearly as many flare ups! I just put it in her wet food.

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