Someone dropped off kittens at our place (we have a farm). The kittens’ eyes run and the kittens sneeze constantly. Can you give me an idea what they have and how to treat it?
The most likely cause for sneezing and eye discharge is a viral upper respiratory infection (URI). These commonly affect kittens and are usually caused by a virus: the herpes virus, the calici virus or both. They often result in sneezing, discharge from the eyes and nose, drooling, congestion, fever and poor appetite.
The feline herpes virus (also called the rhinotracheitis virus) is the most common culprit and causes profuse sneezing and a watery or mucoid nasal discharge. Calici virus causes milder respiratory signs, however, it can cause ulcers in the mouth and on the tongue, resulting in drooling and difficulty eating.
Conjunctivitis (“pinkeye”) in both eyes often accompanies these symptoms. Conjunctivitis can be viral, but it can also be caused by chlamydophila (formerly called chlamydia), a common bacteria isolated from cats with viral upper respiratory infections.
Treatment of URIs requires supportive care with oral antibiotics, antiviral drugs, medicated eye ointments and nutritional supplements such as the amino acid lysine. Fortunately, most kittens recover from respiratory infections.