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Home > Cats > Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats? (Vet Answer)

Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats? (Vet Answer)

Apple cider vinegar

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Dr. Iulia Mihai Photo

Written by

Dr. Iulia Mihai

Veterinarian, DVM MSc

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Humans have used apple cider vinegar (ACV) as a panacea for many years. For this reason, many cat owners wonder if it can also be used for their pets in aiding various medical conditions, such as upper respiratory infections. Although it is believed that ACV has many beneficial properties, it does not help that much for these types of infections.

Respiratory infections in cats can be caused by specific viruses and bacteria. They are highly contagious, and the pathogens are present in a cat’s secretions (saliva and eye and nasal discharge). The infection lasts between 7 and 21 days, and the incubation period is up to 10 days. The treatment recommended by the vet depends on the cause of the infection and the severity of the clinical signs. If your cat is not treated properly, they can suffer complications that can lead to pneumonia and even death.


Causes of Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats

The causes of upper respiratory infections are varied, with the most well-known being certain viruses and bacteria:

  • Feline herpesvirus Type 1 (causes feline viral rhinotracheitis)
  • Feline calicivirus
  • Feline retrovirus, such as feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus, which is less common
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Chlamydophila felis
  • Mycoplasma spp.

Upper respiratory infections can also be caused by fungi, such as Cryptococcus neoformans.1 Up to 90% of cases of feline infections of the upper respiratory tract are caused by herpesvirus and calicivirus, also known as feline flu.

a sick or sad looking cat lying on a blanket
Image Credit: Julia Cherk, Shutterstock

How Does a Cat Get an Upper Respiratory Infection?

The transmission of these infections is generally through direct contact: a healthy cat interacting with a sick cat that is shedding viruses or bacteria through their saliva and nasal and ocular secretions.

Sometimes, cats can become infected by simply eating or drinking from the bowl of a sick cat, playing with their toys, or staying in a place where the sick cat has shed bacteria or viruses. In the case of retroviruses, healthy cats can also get sick from contaminated objects.

Viruses and bacteria cannot typically survive for too long on surfaces. Herpesvirus can survive on surfaces for up to 18 hours, depending on the environment, but calicivirus can survive for up to a month.2,3 Many cats are only carriers but can still transmit the disease to their kittens.

Signs of Upper Respiratory Infections In Cats

Clinical signs of upper respiratory infections in cats include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Nasal and ocular discharges
  • Excessive salivation
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Depression

Respiratory infections last between seven and 21 days, and most will pass on their own if the cat has a strong immune system. These types of infections are rarely fatal, but they can aggravate and lead to severe clinical signs.

In general, when cats stop eating, it is a sign to go to the vet because if they no longer have an adequate intake of essential nutrients, their immune system will begin to decline and won’t be able to fight off the infection.

close up of sick-looking orange cat lying on wooden planks
Image by: estoymhrb, Pexels

Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats?

Opinions are divided regarding the benefits of ACV for cats. Some vets agree with its use in cats for various ailments, including repelling fleas, while others don’t believe that it has any benefits at all. ACV is not toxic for cats, but it’s also not a cure-all for cats suffering from an illness.

Studies on humans and laboratory animals regarding the beneficial effects of ACV on health are insufficient and of low quality. More studies are needed to highlight any alleged beneficial effects.

When it comes to cats with upper respiratory infections and whether ACV can help them, there are no scientific studies to confirm or deny that it can help your sick felines. If you do want to try it, only give ACV to your cat with a very mild case of upper respiratory infection. Severe cases can become more complicated and in certain situations, lead to your cat’s death.

Don’t add ACV to your cat’s water because they might stop drinking it due to the pungent smell. Instead, dampen a tissue in a mixture of 75% water and 25% organic ACV that still contains the “mother” (the culture of beneficial bacteria). ACV’s “mother” has been proven to contain significant amounts of bioactive substances, which are compounds that help promote health.

Wipe or dab your cat's fur with the wet tissue in the following areas:
  • The top of the head
  • The back of the neck
  • The front paws

Do not soak your cat’s fur with this mixture, as it can get into their eyes, ears, and nose and then sting and burn because it is acidic. ACV can also cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting if ingested undiluted or in large quantities. Your cat will not like the taste or smell of ACV, but it will make them want to clean their fur.

If your cat does not show any improvement in 2 days, take them to the vet.

apple cider vinegar
Image Credit: focal point, Shutterstock

Treatment of Upper Respiratory Infection In Cats

Treatment will be recommended by the vet depending on the cause of the infection and the severity of the clinical signs that your cat has.

If the upper respiratory infection is mild, treatment is mostly symptomatic. The veterinarian will likely prescribe your cat antibiotics or antifungals and immunostimulators for at least 7 days. They will also recommend feeding your cat a tasty diet or giving them supplements for convalescent patients to help with their recovery.

What you can do at home is to:
  • Increase the humidity in the house with the help of a humidifier.
  • Wipe your cat’s nose and eyes if they get runny.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can Humans Be Affected by Feline Respiratory Infections?

Certain respiratory infections from cats can be transmitted to humans, but these cases are very rare. The only transmissible ones are those caused by the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica and Chlamydophila felis. Viral or fungal respiratory infections cannot be transmitted to humans. People with a low immune system, the elderly, and children are more prone to get infected by sick cats. If your cat has been diagnosed with a respiratory infection, it is recommended to wash your hands often and avoid kissing them during this period.

How Can I Prevent Respiratory Infections in My Cat?

The only solid way to prevent upper respiratory infections is to vaccinate your cat, though there are situations in which they can still get sick, even if they are vaccinated. Another way to prevent respiratory infections in cats is to constantly disinfect the space where they hang out and any accessories that they use, like food and water bowls, leashes, harnesses, litter boxes, and toys.



Upper respiratory infections cannot be treated with apple cider vinegar. However, if your cat has a mild case and you want to try ACV before going to the vet, you can dab your cat’s fur with a tissue dampened in a solution of 75% water and 25% ACV. If you do not notice any improvement after 2 days, take your cat to the vet. Most of the time, these infections go away on their own or with an antibiotic/antifungal treatment. In severe cases, the respiratory infection can reach the lungs and cause pneumonia. For this reason, it is advisable to contact the veterinarian when your cat shows signs of a respiratory infection.

Featured Image Credit: ThamKC, Shutterstock

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