No pet parent likes seeing their beloved pets feeling unwell, but some cases are especially concerning such as when a cat is suffering from parvovirus. Today, our Elk Grove vets discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment of parvovirus in cats.
Parvovirus in Cats
Parvo in cats is also referred to as feline distemper and feline panleukopenia. Feline parvovirus attacks the cells in your cat's intestines, which causes diarrhea, vomiting, and difficulty eating and drinking. It also attacks the bone marrow, causing shortages of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
This condition is the most common and severe in kittens that are 3 to 5 months old. When kittens are born they are given protection against this disease through antibodies that pass from the mother and into the kitten through the milk. Unfortunately, as kittens ween, their protection decreases.
Parvovirus is quite common and it's expected that most cats will come into contact with this deadly disease at least once in their life. While we mentioned kittens above, senior cats or cats with health conditions are most likely to contract and be seriously affected by this disease.
How Parvovirus Affects Cats
Parvovirus in cats is a disease that primarily impacts the stomach and small intestines. It is here that the virus begins destroying the cat's gut barrier by attacking healthy cells and blocking the absorption of essential nutrients.
In kittens, parvo also attacks the bone marrow and lymphopoietic tissues which play essential roles in your cat's immune system, then the virus will often affect the heart.
The Risk Factors of Parvo
A cat that is fully vaccinated against this disease will be able to protect her kittens during the first few weeks of their life.
However, as the kittens begin to wean, their immune systems weaken and the young kittens become susceptible to the disease.
Vets urge pet parents to begin vaccinating their kittens against parvo starting at 6 weeks of age when the kitten begins to wean and the antibodies from the mother are no longer available to protect them.
Your kitten will need all 3 of the available vaccines to be considered fully protected against parvovirus. It is during the gap between weaning and full vaccination that kittens are most likely to catch parvo.
Cat Parvovirus Symptoms
One of the main considerations with parvovirus is that cats will only begin to show the symptoms once they have already been infected for a period of time. Here are some of the most common symptoms of parvovirus in cats:
- Bloody diarrhea
- Watery nasal discharge
- Fever in the early stage followed by low body temperature
- Lethargy and depression
- Inability to eat
- Weight loss
- Vomiting or frothing at the mouth
Not only are kittens super fragile, but this disease can also progress very quickly and lead to death if not caught right away. If you see the slightest sign of any of these symptoms contact your nearest emergency vet immediately.
Treating Parvo in Cats
There is no cure for parvo in kittens, however, your vet will offer supportive treatments to address symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. Your kitten must get adequate hydration and nutrition to recover from parvovirus. It is unfortunate but kittens that contract parvo are unlikely to survive the illness.
Since secondary infections are common in kittens with parvo (due to their weakened immune systems) your vet will be sure to monitor your kitten's ongoing condition and may prescribe antibiotics to help combat any bacterial infections that may begin to develop.
As long as you can get your kitten to the vet within the first four days, they may have a fighting chance.
Preventing Parvovirus in Cats
Never allow your kitten to spend time around cats that have not been fully vaccinated against parvovirus. Speak with your vet about the available options to help protect your feline friend.
Be sure to follow your vet's advice and have your kitten vaccinated against parvo, rabies, and other potentially serious conditions based on a kitten vaccination schedule for your area.
The Prognosis of Cats With Parvovirus
Before the vaccines that are currently available, parvo used to be one of the leading causes of death in cats. While this is great news it is still important to remember that the virus cannot be treated once your cat is infected.
Adult cats who get parvo have a better chance of surviving than kittens. Cats who receive veterinary care for their parvo have a better chance of surviving than those who do not. Overall, up to 90 percent of cats who get parvo and are not treated will die.
We strongly urge every pet owner to get their kittens and cats vaccinated and follow up with booster shots for the entirety of their cat's life. Preventive measures always outweigh the cost and worry associated with treatment once your cat is already deathly ill. Save them from the discomfort and high mortality rates associated with parvovirus.