Effects of dietary lysine supplementation on upper respiratory and ocular disease and detection of infectious organisms in cats within an animal shelter

Am J Vet Res. 2009 Nov;70(11):1391-400. doi: 10.2460/ajvr.70.11.1391.


Objective: To determine within a cat shelter effects of dietary lysine supplementation on nasal and ocular disease and detection of nucleic acids of Chlamydophila felis, feline calicivirus (FCV), and feline herpesvirus (FHV-1).

Animals: 261 adult cats.

Procedures: Cats were fed a diet containing 1.7% (basal diet; control cats) or 5.7% (supplemented diet; treated cats) lysine for 4 weeks. Plasma concentrations of lysine and arginine were assessed at the beginning (baseline) and end of the study. Three times a week, cats were assigned a clinical score based on evidence of nasal and ocular disease. Conjunctival and oropharyngeal swab specimens were tested for FHV-1, FCV, and C felis nucleic acids once a week.

Results: Data were collected from 123, 74, 59, and 47 cats during study weeks 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively. By study end, plasma lysine concentration in treated cats was greater than that in control cats and had increased from baseline. There was no difference between dietary groups in the proportion of cats developing mild disease. However, more treated cats than control cats developed moderate to severe disease during week 4. During week 2, FHV-1 DNA was detected more commonly in swab specimens from treated versus control cats.

Conclusions and clinical relevance: Dietary lysine supplementation in the amount used in our study was not a successful means of controlling infectious upper respiratory disease within a cat shelter. Rather, it led to increases in disease severity and the incidence of detection of FHV-1 DNA in oropharyngeal or conjunctival mucosal swab specimens at certain time points.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / analysis
  • Animals
  • Calicivirus, Feline / isolation & purification
  • Cat Diseases / microbiology
  • Cat Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cats
  • Chlamydophila Infections / prevention & control
  • Chlamydophila Infections / veterinary
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Eye Infections / microbiology
  • Eye Infections / prevention & control
  • Eye Infections / veterinary*
  • Female
  • Herpesviridae / classification
  • Herpesviridae Infections / veterinary*
  • Lysine / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / microbiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / prevention & control
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / veterinary*


  • Lysine