Antibiotics for Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats

Antibiotics may treat your sneezy kitty's URI.
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Upper respiratory infections -- commonly referred to as kitty "colds" -- can affect your furry friend at any age. These infections are either caused by a virus, bacteria or sometimes both. If your vet diagnoses your kitty with a bacterial-based URI, he'll prescribe some antibiotics for her to treat it.

Why So Sneezy?

The primary causes of URIs in our feline friends are both viruses, namely the calicivirus and the feline herpesvirus, which account for up to 90 percent of cases, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. If your kitty becomes infected with an upper respiratory infection, you'll notice that she may begin sneezing and coughing, develop a runny nose and runny eyes, become lethargic and may develop a fever. Many types of bacteria can also cause URIs in kitties. These bacteria include Bordetella bronchiseptica, Chlamydophila felis and mycoplasma, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. Secondary bacteria-based infections can also form after an initial infection with a virus.

The Diagnosis

To properly diagnose your kitty's cold, bring her to your vet for an exam. He'll not only give your furry friend a physical exam to check for signs of dehydration, but he also may perform blood tests and cultures on the mucous from the kitty's nose, eyes and throat. If a bacterial infection, even a secondary one, is suspected, he may prescribe a medication to kill the bacteria and speed your furry friend's healing. Some vets may even prescribe a broad spectrum antibiotic for kittens to prevent a secondary bacterial infection from forming to begin with. Unfortunately, antibiotics don't have any effect on viruses, which must simply run their course.


Once your vet determines what type of bacteria is affecting your kitty, he'll prescribe either one specific to that bacteria or a broad spectrum one to treat many types of bacteria. Oral antibiotics such as doxycycline, amoxicillin or one containing a mix of amoxicillin and clavulanic acid may be prescribed, depending on your little one's particular case, according to the Manhattan Cat Specialists. You'll have to give your kitty the dose your vet prescribes for the full course of treatment, as recommended by your vet. Don't stop the drugs early or give less than prescribed by your vet because then they won't work to kill the bacteria, according to WebMD. You should also isolate your furry friend from other kitties during her treatment because they may catch the highly contagious virus or bacteria.


Many oral antibiotics for kitties come in liquid form that you give to your furry friend by placing the liquid directly into your kitty's mouth with a dropper, so ask your vet to demonstrate the best way to do this. Ask if the medication should be refrigerated, as many of these oral antibiotics require. While antibiotics won't cure a viral URI, regular vaccination with the feline viral rhinotracheitis vaccine can prevent such infections, or at least mitigate them and lessen their symptoms. In addition to any antibiotics your vet may prescribe, you should also provide your kitty with some supportive care, including providing her with a comfy bed and using a vaporizer nearby to help her breathe. Monitor her appetite and notify your vet if she's not eating because she can't smell her food; heating the food slightly, until it's warm to the touch, may help.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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