Parvo in Cats
Feline infectious enteritis, feline distemper, panleukopenia, or cat plague are all common terms used to describe the infectious disease known as parvovirus. Highly contagious and potentially deadly, Parvo in Cats has been on the rise in populations across the world.
So what is feline parvovirus? What are the symptoms of parvo in cats? How does it spread from one animal to another, and can cats get parvo from dogs? Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions cat owners ask when looking at parvovirus in cats, and find out how to treat it.
What Is Feline Parvovirus?
Parvovirus is a highly contagious disease spread from animal to animal. In cats, this virus is commonly known as feline distemper or feline panleukopenia virus. This is after the effects the virus has on the animals.
The virus has been around since the 1960’s. While there is a vaccination, younger cats are still at high risk of contracting the disease. This is because they are not fully vaccinated until after the completion of the three-stage vaccination. This is around the one year of age mark (AVMA.org).
The panleukopenia in Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV) means low white blood cell count. The virus attacks the white blood cells, tissues, and bones, wiping them out temporarily.
From there the cat is exposed to contracting diseases, hemorrhaging or suffering from anemic conditions. It is one of the deadliest viruses to cats. Parvovirus can even affect unborn kittens while they are still in the womb.
Like many viruses, Parvo in cats has different strains varying in deadliness. Once your cat has contracted FPV and lived to tell the tale, it is unlikely that they will catch it again.
How Does Parvo Affect Cats?
There are a number of symptoms of FPV that first present themselves. However, they can easily be misdiagnosed as an infection unless your vet has all the facts. Symptoms of parvo in cats will often mimic those of an upper respiratory tract infection or severe gastroenteritis in early stages until it is too late.
There are numerous signs that you should get your cat checked out if you suspect FPV.
Symptoms of Parvo in Cats include:
- Excessive sneezing
- Discharge from eyes
- Loss of balance
- Difficulty walking
- Sudden diarrhea or vomiting
- Refusal to eat
Because FPV is highly contagious, you should separate any cats that you suspect might have FPV and call a veterinarian immediately.
Acting quickly could be the key to saving your furry friends life (Foley Vet.com).
How Does Parvo Spread From One Animal To Another?
Parvovirus is spread from one contaminated animal to another through bodily fluid contact. As the virus can survive for up to a year outside of the body, precautions are necessary when handling an infected cat.
FPV can be spread through the following ways:
- An infected cats blood, feces, urine, or mucus
- Contaminated bedding, litter trays or food bowls
- Anything that is shared between cats.
Feral cats are often carriers of parvovirus as they have not been vaccinated and are left to roam. FPV can be spread from cats to foxes and vice versa. Each time it creates a new strain mutation.
It is important that if your cat is allowed to roam that they are vaccinated. If your cat comes into contact with an infected cat’s feces, it could become infected and spread the virus along its usual path home.
Because Parvo in cats is highly contagious, it is also possible to be spread in utero. When a pregnant cat contracts FPV, the virus is passed along to the unborn kitten and can cause brain damage.
While not always obvious when the kitten is born, the virus affects the cerebellum which controls motor coordination. In other words, kittens who are infected in utero are often unable to walk properly, and often have to be put down as a result.
Can Cats Get Parvo From Dogs?
Short answer, yes. Parvovirus is highly contagious and a mutated strain of canine parvovirus has been suspected of infecting felines. While dogs cannot catch feline parvovirus, the virus can mutate and be spread to cats.
Places where young puppies and kittens mix together such as pet shops can be a breeding ground for this transmission. There is a theory that canine parvovirus originated as a mutated strain of the feline panleukopenia virus. Reversing the viruses direction in species is not surprising (PetMD).
Before we got Mittsy, our Dog actually had Parvo when he was only weeks old, thankfully he survived his ordeal.
As we already discussed briefly, parvovirus can also be found in wild foxes and wild dogs and transmitted to the feline population via strays. Shelters are also breeding grounds for parvovirus. They take in strays in order to treat and rehome them.
Shelters who do not take appropriate preventions against parvovirus can aid the spread of the virus unknowingly. The virus is very resilient outside of the body and cannot be killed with medication or disinfectant. In rare cases, the virus has been transmitted through contaminated soil after an infected animal has been buried in the ground.
How Is Parvo In Cats Treated?
Feline panleukopenia virus is diagnosed via a fecal test and blood tests that check for white blood cell counts in the body. It is important to seek treatment as soon as you release that something may be wrong. Some cats can die even before the onset of gastroenteritis.
The veterinarian will try to stop the symptoms of FPV by treating your cat with intravenous fluids and antibiotics. There is no specific medication that can cure FPV. Treatment will differ depending on the strain and health of your individual cat.
Most treatments include the IV and antibiotics combination, often with 24/7 care. Treating FPV requires fighting the symptoms of the virus, much like fighting the common cold. It may take weeks for your feline friend to get back to feeling like her usual self, during which time you must practice strict hygiene measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
What Should I Do If I Suspect My Cat Has Parvovirus?
Maybe you’ve just picked a kitten up from the pet store and she seems a little sick. Maybe your roaming moggie has come home a little worse for wear.
It is possible that the pet resort you chose for your kitten while you were away on holiday wasn’t quite as good as first impressions suggested. Whatever the cause, if your cat is suffering from any of the symptoms of FPV, the first thing you need to do is call the vet.
Treating the virus before it has time to do extensive damage to your cat could mean the difference between life and death. Unfortunately feline parvovirus has a 90% mortality rate, so the earlier treatment starts the better.
Isolate your companion from other animals, transport them in a secure container with old towels you can bin afterward. Also, make sure to wash everything they might have come into contact with thoroughly.
Vaccination is always the best prevention for Parvo in Cats. There are many programs around that can help with the cost of vaccinations and most shelters will vaccinate before rehoming.
If your cat does contract FPV the best thing you can do is always call the vet. It is a stressful time for you both but with 24/7 care you can rest assured knowing that you are doing everything possible for your feline friend.