Parvovirus in Cats

Feline parvovirus, while no longer as widespread as it once was, is still a deadly and hardy virus posing a threat to any cat who is not vaccinated against it.

What Is Feline Parvovirus?

You might have heard of Feline Parvovirus (Parvo) referred to as panleukopenia or feline distemper (FPV). While not the same as Canine Parvovirus, it is referred to as Parvo due to the similar symptoms. Cats are most susceptible as kittens from 4 to 12 weeks of age, or even as unvaccinated adults. Most cats catch the virus through infected areas rather than from other, infected cats, as the virus can survive up to a year in the environment.

Parvo kills off the white blood cells used in the body to fight off disease and illness, and also wrecks havoc on a cat's digestive system. Because of the decrease of white blood cells and therefore weakened immune system, Parvo-infected cats are also more susceptible to other viruses or bacteria.

Feline Parvovirus Symptoms

While kittens might display more violent symptoms than adults due to their younger and weaker immune systems, all Parvo symptoms should be taken very seriously, both for your pet and any cats he or she may come in contact with. A pregnant mother with Parvo will most certainly pass the disease on to her kittens as well. Symptoms to look for include:

  •  High fever
  •  Disinterest, lethargy, depression
  •  Lack of appetite
  •  Diarrhea

In the most severe cases, sudden death is not uncommon.

Diagnosis of Parvo in Felines

A veterinarian has a number of ways to check for Parvo, even if your cat or kitten is not displaying any symptoms. Swollen lymph nodes can be a sign that something is wrong, as well as a swollen and painful abdomen. With blood work, the white blood cell or platelet count will be checked to ensure levels aren't too low. Because Parvo attacks the digestive system, an inspection of the small intestines to check for inflammation might also be in order.

Feline Parvo Treatment

There is no cure for Feline Parvovirus. The symptoms can be treated, and a veterinarian will drip-feed your cat. If your cat or kitten can make it through the first five days, their chances of survival are higher. Antibiotics may be administered for secondary infections due to strained immune systems, and anti-seizure medication can be given if your cat is suffering from seizures. Full recovery can take several weeks. At home, anything and everything the infected cat has come in contact with needs to be disinfected.

How to Prevent Feline Parvo

Vaccinate your cats and kittens, and be sure to keep up with these vaccinations. Because there is no cure for Parvo, vaccinations are of the utmost importance. Pregnant female cats can be vaccinated using a special vaccine that will be safe for the kittens. Kittens should be vaccinated between 9 to 12 weeks.