Alleviating the symptoms of cat upper respiratory infections

Why are there very few medicines to alleviate the symptoms of upper respiratory infections (URIs) in cats? I can’t find any with which we are familiar. The advice is to wipe the eyes with most cotton balls as often as required, and keep your cat hydrated and warm. Is there much else we can do? Yes, we can use a steam vaporizer to alleviate breathing problems but I don’t know how effective that is. We put our cat in the bathroom when we shower but that might upset him.

Shelter cat had severe uri

Shelter cat had severe URI. He is Buttermilk and was adopted. Photo: Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue

Cat URIs can be nasty and cause a lot of discomfort. Wouldn’t it be nice to make our cat feel a bit better? When people get colds we head for the medicine cabinet and pain killers, drying up medicines to stop the flow of water from our nose and eyes, medicines to alleviate sinus pain. There are a myriad of medicines to make us feel a bit better while our body attacks the virus and returns us to good health again.

It is possible to give pain killing pills to cats but it has to be done under veterinary supervision and with extreme care. I sense it is too dangerous to administer pain killers over quite a long period which you’ll have to do for a cat with a nasty URI. The only over-the-counter analgesic that a cat owner can buy and administer themselves is aspirin but the dosage is vitally important to avoid hurting a cat and it can only administered every three days as I understand it.

People can buy over-the-counter medicines for colds for their own use. Why can’t we do the same thing for cats? Is it only because the cat is sensitive to medicines or is it at least partly because the drug companies work with veterinarians to encourage cat owners to take their cat to the vet?

There is one “medicine” that might help alleviate the symptoms of a cat cold: L-lysine. It is an amino acid which reduces the amount of arginine in the cat. Arginine is used by the feline herpes virus to replicate.

I have just noticed that swollen nasal membranes can be shrunk using (in the US) Afrin Children’s Strength Nose Drops.

There are homeopathic medicines which may do something but I don’t believe they are much good which is why I have not included them as a viable solution.

The reason why I wrote this is because my cat is very ill and it is possibly a viral infection and I’d like to make him feel better. We are going to the vet for the fourth time this afternoon.

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Alleviating the symptoms of cat upper respiratory infections — 33 Comments

  1. I hope your visit to the vet goes well Michael and she helps poor Charlie to feel better.
    We have an appointment too for Jozef, it seems to be the same virus Walter had first a few months back, wanting to eat but can’t and his meow has gone quiet and I can see his throat is a bit red.
    Sarah put Walter right with a long acting antibiotic and steroid but we saw a different vet with Jozef and he only gave him the steroid, which is why I think is why he has it again.
    So we are seeing Sarah today with Jo.
    I don’t know who is more stressed on trips to the vets, the cats or us, I dread it!

  2. Those nasty, nasty URI’s that can spread like wildfire through a multicat household are the worst.

    L-lysine has been a very good friend to me and, truly, helps, especially when the condition appears to be herpes related. The key is that it must be given religiously, not a now-and-then sort of thing. It can be discontinued at times of remission, but that doesn’t apply to multi-cats, because all don’t have remissions at the same time.

    It has no negative effect on cats, so there is no worry about sprinkling on food shared by other cats that aren’t affected. It’s easiest to give to all than to isolate and give to some.

    • Thanks Dee for your advice. I have bought some lysine on Amazon. It arrives tomorrow. My vet has not recommended anything to alleviate the discomfort or symptoms. I am desperate to help him.

      • I got my BIG container from Amazon too – pretty cheap really for the good it does.

        For a while, I thought that I would never get what was going on here under control. Antibiotics didn’t do much good. I do have to say that a warm (not cool) vaporizer with a tad of mentholatum gel worked miracles too. I set it up in my kitchen (not an enclosed area) and it just emitted a soft mist throughout the kitchen and livingroom. Even I felt the benefit.

        Like you mentioned, there are other products that will help with symptoms and are safe for cats that I won’t relay here, but only ask the following about Charlie:

        Was/is he febrile?
        Did you hear congestion (hold his midsection to your ear and listen for crackling or wheezing); and if so, was it upper or lower?
        Is he snotty?
        Are his eyes watering?

        All above are symptoms that can be treated to bring relief to your cat.

        • Thank Dee. He has gone into hiding and his eye watering has stopped. He now has this cackling noise from his throat. That noise has been there for months. Less obvious in the past. It kills me to think of him. I was going to the vet today but decided on a proper visit on Tuesday when they can do tests. I need to see the head vet. She is excellent.

          • Michael, did your vet not prescribe Clavamox?? This is the drug which is best suited for all URI. I have several new rescues on this drug currently. If you hear crackling in the lungs it’s important that pneumonia is prevented by using Clavamox. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of OTC type meds which help alleviate the symptoms like we have when we get a cold. Please ask your vet for Clavamox ASAP!

            • No she has not prescribed Clavamox. I have told her about the cackling. It is bad. There is no eye watering now just cackling. You think he might get a bacterial infection in the lungs, I guess. I am seeing the vet Tuesday (the first available day). It feels too long. I’ll call them again today. I have always believed there is something wrong lower down.

      • I got my BIG container from Amazon too – pretty cheap really for the good it does.

        For a while, I thought that I would never get what was going on here under control. Antibiotics didn’t do much good. I do have to say that a warm (not cool) vaporizer with a tad of mentholatum gel worked miracles too. I set it up in my kitchen (not an enclosed area) and it just emitted a soft mist throughout the kitchen and livingroom. Even I felt the benefit.

        Like you mentioned, there are other products that will help with symptoms and are safe for cats that I won’t relay here, but only ask the following about Charlie:

        Was/is he febrile?
        Did you hear congestion (hold his midsection to your ear and listen for crackling or wheezing); and if so, was it upper or lower?
        Is he snotty?
        Are his eyes watering?

        All above are symptoms that can be treated to bring relief to your cat.

  3. How is Charlie?
    Jozef was very good, he has no temperature and is in good condition, but he has a sore throat so had antibiotic/steroid injections. We chatted about his allergy, when he washes sometimes he sneezes and coughs as if he’s allergic to his own fur. Like all vets she had no solution but agreed keeping a cat on steroids long term isn’t a good idea. We can just keep on hoping it goes as quickly as it came.

    • Grass aids their digestion and also if they need to vomit, chewing grass often helps bring it up.
      Cats kept always indoors miss out on chewing grass but there is something called Kitty grass which can be grown in pots for them.

  4. when i had a mother cat with herpes virus give birth to her baby, they both were struggling to breathe. i went to the e.r. and they gave both cats oxygen therapy. the difference was night and day. not sure if it was a chamber or mask, or if it’s generally available at a standard vet’s office, but you might call around to see who provides this treatment.

      • IDK if there is a delay in responses appearing or if links may not be allowed. I just posted a reply and included a link to info at 1 800 petmeds. I was going to add to that comment but it is not here. So, forgive me if I am repeating myself.

        I have used chlorpheniramine for 30 years for my own sinus problems. My Los Angeles vets routinely prescribed it for my cats. We share a bottle. They get 1-2 mg every 12 hours; it takes about an hour to kick in. The comment I was going to add references the fact that the web site I mentioned gives the same dosage but says don’t crush or open the capsules. Hard to give the appropriate dosage with a capsule since it’s 4mg. Get the tablets.

        Every pharmacy has a generic version. Walgreen’s is Walfinate.

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