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Dr. Deb
Dr. Deb, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 10861
Experience:  I have been a practicing veterinarian for over 30 years.
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Hi, My 5-month old kitten has been diagnosed with calicivirus.

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My 5-month old kitten has been diagnosed with calicivirus. She's been on antibiotics for a week and has perked up considerably - she's now eating and drinking regularly and her energy levels are improving. She is still really congested though - very snuffly and sneezing a lot. How can I help to breathe a bit more easily?
Thanks, Julie

Hello Julie, I'm Dr. Deb and I'll do my best to help you today.

I'm sorry that Bonnie has been diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection although I'm glad that she's responding to treatment thus far.

There are several ways you can help with her stuffy nose:

1. Use warm water to clean the nose of any discharge that builds up.
2. Nasal decongestant drops can be helpful although many cats don’t like them very much as you can imagine. The medicated ones should only be used for three days in a row, with one drop in each nostril; otherwise what’s known as a rebound effect may occur. Examples include:
a. Pediatric otrivin=0.05% xylometazoline

b. “Little Noses" Decongestant Nose Drops with phenylephrine hydrochloride
c. Afrin (oxymetazoline)

d. "Little Noses" Saline Spray/Drops non medicated which can be used more than three days in a row.

3. You can place her in a bathroom with hot water running so that the steam can loosen up secretions or run a humidifier instead.

4. Antihistamines are not typically effective for this problem in all cats but does appear to help dry up secretions for some. Options include:

Benadryl at a dose of 1/4 of a 25 mg tablet given twice daily or

Chlorpheniramine at a dose of 2 mgtwice a day or

Claritin at a dose of 2.5 mg twice or

Zyrtec 2.5 mg once or twice a day

It is important to ensure that the formulations used contain ONLY the antihistamine and are not combination products (e.g. Claritin-D contains pseudoephedrine, which could cause very significant adverse effects in a cats.

Sedation is a common side effect with these kinds of drugs so I wouldn't want you to think she was worsening if you decide to try them.


The good news is that most Upper Respiratory Infections only last 10-14 days in most cats so, hopefully, she should be over this soon.


I hope this helps. Deb

Dr. Deb and other Cat Specialists are ready to help you
Thanks for the rating; it's greatly appreciated.

And, good luck with Bonnie.

I'd like to check back in with you in a few days, just to see how she's doing.

Even though you've rated, we can still continue to communicate at no additional charge to you. Regards, Deb

Kindly ignore the request for additional information.

I’m just following up on our conversation about Bonnie. How is she doing? Deb
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Deb,


Thanks for checking back with me. Bonnie has been up and down I'm afraid: she seems to be much perkier one day, then is really lethargic the next day.


I bought some saline spray - you're right cats don't like it! But it does help, it made her sneeze and dislodged some thick yellow mucus yesterday.


But her appetitie and energy levels seem to be going down again. She is eating regularly, but only small amounts and I'm worried that she doesn't seem to be putting on weight. It's also a struggle to get her to drink.


Her breath is getting smelly again too (that cleared up when she was on antibiotics).


I'm wondering if she'd benefit from another course of antibiotics to help her system kick the respiratory infection properly?


Any advice much appreciated! Thanks, Julie

Thanks for getting back to me but I'm sorry to hear that Bonnie isn't kicking this thing.

I usually have these cats on antibiotics until they're eating on their own and significant improvement is seen which is usually about 10-14 days. It might be worthwhile asking your vet about another round.

I always suggest testing these cats for Feline Leukemia and Feline AIDS if they aren't responding as expected. I'm not trying to add an additional worry about her but just thought I would mention it.

Please keep me posted, if you have a chance. Regards, Deb

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Deb,

Thanks for that - I'll give the vet a call.

We have had her tested for feline leukemia and feline AIDS, which were both negative - so that's something at least. Her liver/kidney/etc function were all ok too; though she had a really high temperature (40.3) - which presumably was due to the calicivirus?

Anyway, I'll let you know how we get on - it would be good to see some real improvement soon; she looks so sorry for herself, poor little mite!

Thanks again, Julie

I sort of assumed she'd already been tested but just wanted to make sure:)

Yes, cats with this virus often run fevers which adds to their general malaise.

And, they do look pathetic, I'll agree with you there!!

I'll look forward to continued updates. Deb
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Deb,


We took Bonnie back to the vet last Tuesday and they gave her a shot of antiobiotics to cover her for two weeks.

But since then she hasn't been showing any improvement.

She stopped eating completely on Friday, so yesterday we were syringing tepid water, tepid chicken broth and pureed baby food into her mouth, to try to encourage her to eat.

She is completely listless, has lost weight and her breathing is very shallow.

All of our local vets are closed on Sunday. Should we continue with the syringed food and liquids today? Or get her straight to an emergency vet?

Thanks, Julie

I've just now logged on to my computer and seen your upsetting news about Bonnie.

From the sounds of it, she needs to be seen at the ER vet, if you haven't already taken her.
Her decline is not at all what would be expected of a "simple" calici virus infection; I have to suspect that something else is going on. She may have pneumonia now and needs more aggressive therapy.

I'm so, so sorry that she's not doing well but please keep me posted. Deb
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Deb,

We did take her to the ER vet, just after I'd messaged you, as her breathing was getting worse. The vet put her on intravenous antibiotics, decongestants and fluids yesterday, but sadly she didn't make it through the night and died early this morning.

As you suspected above, the problem was more than calicivirus and the vet thinks she had pneumonia.

We went to say goodbye to her this morning. Lots of tears, as you can imagine.

Thanks for your advice though - and at least after two courses of antibiotics and the care we've been able to give her at home, I hope we gave her a fighting chance. It's just that the virus was too strong for her little system to fight.

Thanks again, Julie

Oh, Julie, I'm so, so sorry to hear about Bonnie:( My heart is really heavy at this moment; I can just imagine what you must be feeling.

I do hope you can take comfort in the knowledge that she received the best care possible and that her short life were filled with much love and affection.

It's been my experience that the mortality rate with kittens who develop pneumonia is quite high; it's just the saddest thing to lose these small ones to this disease.

My sincerest condolences to you and yoru family at this incredibly heart-breaking time. Regards, Deb