Feline calicivirus causes mild to serious respiratory illness. Cats become infected by inhaling or swallowing the virus, and signs of illness may develop within 2 to 10 days of exposure. Early signs include runny eyes and nose, sneezing, depression, and poor appetite. Ulcers may develop on the tongue and hard palate, and most infected cats drool heavily. The illness lasts 1 to 4 weeks. Though most cats recover, fatalities do occur. Young kittens are most likely to be severely affected. Some cats that recover from the initial disease may continue to shed the virus for weeks or even years.
A vaccine is available for prevention of calicivirus infection.
Important Points in Treatment
1. Drugs cannot eliminate calicivirus. Treatment is designed to prevent bacterial infections (especially pneumonia), relieve signs, and maintain hydration and nutrition.
2. Severely affected cats and kittens must be treated in the hospital, where intravenous fluids can be given to maintain hydration and provide nutrition.
3. The virus is hardy and may survive outside the cat on dishes, pans, etc., for 8 to 10 days.