Common feline herpes virus attacks cats but not their people

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

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

Even people whose immune systems are weakened by cancer chemotherapy, immunosuppressive drugs or the human immunodeficiency virus haven’t got to fret about catching other species’ herpes viruses.

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

The virus is definitely transmitted amongst cats, especially young cats that have not been vaccinated and live in a crowded environment.

Once infected, just about all cats carry herpes virus of their bodies for the rest of their lives. Many carriers develop one other episode of rhinotracheitis once they are stressed.

Stressful events include moving to a latest home, coping with latest cats or dogs within the family, fighting one other disease or undergoing major surgery. Medications that suppress the immune system, akin to corticosteroids, can also provoke one other 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” within the FVRCP vaccination. Make sure that she stays inside, away from diseased cats, predators and other risks.

Q: I would like to adopt a dog, but I’m undecided I can afford to take care of 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 cleansing at $500 and skilled grooming of $300 per yr 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 primary obedience training course. Excluded from the calculation is the adoption fee or purchase price of the dog.

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

These estimates assume the dog stays healthy throughout life, but that is normally not the case, so you must add veterinary take care of illnesses and long-term medications to your budget. Additional expenses can include specialty food and supplements, a dog walker or doggie daycare for long workdays, and a pet sitter or boarding kennel whenever you go on vacation.

The adoption fee at many shelters and rescue organizations includes sterilization, a microchip and initial vaccinations, which can prevent some money. For more ways to avoid wasting on veterinary care, email me.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Email her at

vet@askthevet.pet