The scariest thing a new puppy owner can hear is parvovirus, it is extremely contagious to other puppies and deadly if not treated. Is this something that new kitten owners need to worry about too? Can kittens get parvovirus? Keep reading to find out.
Feline Panleukopenia – Cat Parvo
The parvovirus that occurs in puppies cannot jump species and infect cats or people. However, kittens and juvenile cats (usually 3-5 months old) are susceptible to a different form of parvovirus called Feline panleukopenia or FP for short.
Feline panleukopenia is an extremely contagious virus that kills cells in the intestines, lymph nodes, fetuses, and bone marrow, attacking red and white blood cells.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of FP include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, depression, dehydration, nasal discharge, and loss of appetite. Most symptoms will actually look like those of gastrointestinal obstruction, poisoning, or other viral infections.
Who is at risk?
This virus will attack unvaccinated kittens. It can be passed by nasal discharge, urine, and stool. Although an infected cat will shed the virus for only a couple days, it can surprisingly survive on surfaces for a year. Meaning surfaces and people who handle infected cats can actually infect other cats. Areas with feral cat colonies are at higher risk as well as warmer climates.
What to do if you suspect FP in your cat
If your cat is observed to have the symptoms of feline panleukopenia, you should call your veterinarian immediately and explain the situation, including the cat’s history and vaccine status. Due to the severity of the virus, they may ask to see the cat in a specific room or in isolation until the cat is confirmed to have a positive or negative result.
Treatment of FP
If the cat is suspect of having feline panleukopenia, your veterinarian will want to run some blood tests to analyze red and white blood cell counts since the virus attacks both. They will also want to test the cat’s stool to test for FP since this is how the virus is spread.
Unfortunately, there is no medication to kill the virus. If positive, a cat will need to be treated for their symptoms to help them fight off the virus. Usually, the cat will be hospitalized in isolation and placed on IV fluids and given medication to help with vomiting and diarrhea. Then it is a waiting game. If the cat survives the first 4 or 5 days, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
How to prevent feline panleukopenia
The best and most effective way to prevent your cat from ever having to experience this awful virus is simple – vaccinate. Vaccinations are so important for the prevention of many diseases your cat can catch. Vaccinations should start at 8 weeks of age and be boostered monthly until your cat reaches 16 weeks of age. Also, when bringing a new cat into the home, keep them away from other household cats until a thorough examination and vaccines are done just as a precaution to keep other cats safe and healthy.
Feline panleukopenia is a serious and fatal virus if not treated. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you feel your young cat may be infected.