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Feline Calicivirus Infection (FCV) (vsFCV) (VSD)


If you’re concerned your cat may have contracted a Feline Calicivirus Infection, you can find the answers and information you seek here. 

At Home Health UK, we are the experts on health and well-being for both people and pets, and it is our mission to supply the information and health tests you need to live happily. Our online pet pharmacy has an abundance of pet treatments and pet health tests that allow you to take the very best care of your four-legged friends. 

What is Feline Calicivirus Infection?

Feline Calicivirus (FCV) is a virus that causes acute upper respiratory infections in cats, targeting the lungs and nasal passage. There are many strains of the virus, but virulent systemic FCV infection (vsFCV or VSD) is probably the most severe strain of the disease. When infected with vsFCV, the virus is found in other major organs and in the cells that line the blood vessels of an infected cat. 

FCV is one of several viruses which cause cat flu. Other viruses which cause cat flu are feline herpesvirus (FHV), Chlamydophila and Bordetella.

What are the Symptoms of Feline Calicivirus Infection?

Acute upper respiratory infection (URI) is the most common FCV infection.  Due to the many strains of FCV, cats can show variable symptoms, such as:

  • Sneezing and nasal discharge
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Ulceration on the tongue, nose, lips or around claws
  • Fever
  • Joint pain and lameness

Your cat can exhibit symptoms from a few days to a few weeks. Kittens and cats with a weakened immune system are susceptible to going on to develop pneumonia.

What are the Symptoms of Virulent Systemic FCV Infection?

Virulent systemic FCV infection (vsFCV) is rare but is the most severe strain of the disease. Symptoms of vsFCV include:

  • High fever
  • Severe depression
  • Edema of legs and or face (painful swelling and fluid retention, which may be sensitive to touch)
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Liver inflammation (hepatitis)
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Ulceration on the tongue, nose, lips or around claws
  • Bleeding from nose and intestine.

How is Feline Calicivirus Transmitted?

Unfortunately, Feline Calicivirus infection is highly contagious and easily transmitted. It is transmitted between cats through direct contact through saliva, eye or nasal secretions. More recent research suggests FCV may also be transmitted through urine and faeces. The infection may also be transmitted through contaminated items such as food bowls and bedding.

Limit the spread of the infection by ensuring you clean surfaces your cat comes into contact with and keep them contained in one comfortable area. Surfaces that have come into contact with secretions from an infected cat can remain contaminated for up to one week and even longer in cool conditions. So, even if your cat has seemingly recovered, there is still the potential for infection in your home if not properly sanitised. 

Is Feline Calicivirus Contagious to Humans?

Humans are not susceptible to Feline Calicivirus infection, although they can spread it. If you have touched a contaminated surface or an infected cat, there is a possibility that you may spread those germs in your own home to be caught by your pet cats. 

Regular hand sanitising is the best way to limit the spread of FCV as much as possible, even if you’re unknowingly in contact. 

Is Feline Calicivirus Curable?

The prognosis of FCV depends very much on the severity of the symptoms. Typically, a cat will begin to recover within 3-4 days, with the infection lasting for 14-21 days. This means that although your cat may begin to feel better, it will remain contagious for much longer.

Is Feline Calicivirus Deadly?

As FCV weakens your cat’s immune system, symptoms can worsen, and your cat may contract other illnesses. For example, if your cat develops severe pneumonia, or in rare cases of vsFCV, the disease becomes life-threatening, with the death rate being particularly high in cases of vsFCV.

How to Treat Feline Calicivirus

There is no specific treatment for FCV. However, an FCV infection is frequently complicated by a secondary infection which usually requires antibiotics. While your cat recovers, you should be able to care for them at home. Your vet will advise you on how to clean your cat’s eyes and nose to keep them clear of secretions, in addition to advice on diet. 

If your cats nose is congested, try taking him into a steamy bathroom. If this does not work, your vet can prescribe a decongestant to help make breathing easier.

In severe cases, your cat may need to be hospitalised to receive intravenous fluids, nutritional support, steam inhalation, or a nebuliser to relieve nasal congestion.

What are the Long-Term Effects of FCV?

Most infected cats will shed the virus in secretions from their eyes, nose and mouth for at least thirty days after infection. It is believed that up to half of infected cats will still be shedding the virus up to seventy-five days after infection.  

It should be noted that a small number will become lifelong carriers and shed the virus indefinitely but appear clinically well.

How Can I Prevent My Cat from Developing FCV?

Ensuring your cat is up to date with all injections is an important preventative measure. However, it does not always prevent infection but will certainly reduce the severity of the disease. Kittens should receive a course of injections from eight weeks old, then a booster at one year of age. Adult cats should then receive a booster every one to three years.

  • If you have several cats, and one is exhibiting symptoms –  you should isolate the infected cat, although it is likely that the virus may have already been passed on. This will at least help keep the infected cat safe from additional infections. 
  • FCV is resistant to most disinfectants and can survive 7-14 days, possibly up to a month, in the environment. However, soaking contaminated objects such as bowls, grooming utensils and bedding for at least 15 minutes in a bleach solution (1 part bleach to 32 parts water) should kill the virus.
  • If you place your cat in boarding kennels, ensure the kennels have a strict policy that all vaccinations are kept up to date.
  • If you pet a cat outside your home, wash your hands thoroughly before interacting with your own cat.
  • If you are considering bringing a new cat or kitten into your home, check for any history of respiratory disease the cat or kitten’s mother suffered.  Once home, keep them isolated from the other cats for at least seven days.

Does Your Cat have Feline Calicivirus Infection? 

If, after reading our guide on Feline Calicivirus infection, you are concerned that your cat may have the virus, we can help. At Home Health, we have a range of at-home feline health tests, which includes a selection of Feline Calicivirus tests that promise quick and accurate results. 

However, if you do not feel comfortable or capable of performing the test yourself, or are further concerned for your cat’s health, seek the support of your veterinarian. 

Contact us today for more advice and information on our Feline Calicivirus tests. 

Feline Calicivirus Infection FAQs

Further advice and information can be found in the answers to our most frequently asked questions regarding Feline Calicivirus. 

How is FCV diagnosed?

Usually, the signs and symptoms exhibited are enough to diagnose FCV. However, if a specific diagnosis is required, eye or mouth swabs can be taken for testing. Where sudden lameness occurs, an x-ray may be recommended to rule out injury or other causes.

Can a vaccinated cat get feline calicivirus?

Vaccinating your cat at a young age is important to protect them against Feline Calicivirus. It can help them avoid becoming unwell from the virus. However, as Feline Calicivirus is a mutating virus, it is possible for even vaccinated cats to contract the infection. Disease and symptom severity will be greatly reduced for vaccinated cats. In some cases, they may show no signs at all. 

Can cats with feline calicivirus go outside?

If your cat has Feline Calicivirus, it is important to keep them indoors for their own protection and others. While poorly with FCV, they may have a weakened immune system which could lead to them contracting other respiratory illnesses in addition to the Feline Calicivirus infection that could result in death. 

Even if your cat appears to be well and active, cats with FCV can remain contagious for around thirty days on average. So, even if you have an outdoor cat that loves to explore, you should keep them inside to minimise the potential spread to neighbouring felines.