Cat parvovirus, or feline panleukopenia, is a highly contagious and often fatal viral disease affecting cats. Understanding the symptoms and transmission of this virus is crucial for cat owners to ensure the health and safety of their feline companions. In this post, our vets will discuss the symptoms of cat parvovirus, how cats can contract the virus, and the timeline for the onset of symptoms.

What Is Parvo in Cats?

Feline parvo, also known as feline distemper and feline panleukopenia, is caused by the feline parvovirus. This virus attacks the cells in a cat's intestines, leading to symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and difficulty eating and drinking. It also affects the bone marrow, decreasing red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

This condition is most common and severe in three to five months of kittens. Although kittens are initially protected by antibodies in their mother's milk, this protection decreases between four and twelve weeks of age. 

Feline parvovirus is prevalent in most environments, and almost every cat will be exposed to it during their lifetime. Kittens and unvaccinated or sick cats are at the highest risk of contracting this disease.

How can cats get parvovirus?

Parvovirus in cats spreads primarily through direct contact with an infected cat or through contact with contaminated environments. This virus can survive in the environment for long periods, making it easy for cats to contract it through shared litter boxes, food and water dishes, bedding, or even from humans who have handled infected cats. Kittens, unvaccinated cats, and cats with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to parvovirus cat infections.

What are the symptoms of cat parvovirus?

Recognizing cat parvovirus symptoms early can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment. The symptoms of parvovirus in cats can vary, but common signs include:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • 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
  • Dehydration

Not only are kittens super fragile, but this disease can also progress very quickly and lead to death if not caught right away. Contact your nearest emergency vet immediately if you see the slightest sign of these symptoms.

Timeline for Symptoms

The incubation period for cat parvovirus is typically between three to seven days after exposure. This means that symptoms can start to appear within a week of the cat coming into contact with the virus. Early detection and immediate veterinary care are essential for improving the cat's chances of recovery.

Treatment for Parvovirus in Cats & Kittens

There is no cure for parvovirus in kittens, but vets can provide supportive treatments for symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. It's crucial for kittens to stay hydrated and well-nourished to fight Parvovirus. Sadly, the mortality rate for kittens with this disease is high.

Because kittens with Parvo are susceptible to secondary infections due to weakened immune systems, vets will monitor the kitten's condition. They may prescribe antibiotics to prevent bacterial infections from developing.

If a kitten under treatment survives the initial four days after symptoms appear, there's a good chance of recovery.

Preventing Parvovirus in Cats

Make sure your kitten doesn't spend time around cats that haven't been fully vaccinated against Parvovirus. Talk to your vet about how to keep your new four-legged family member safe. Follow your vet's advice and get your kitten vaccinated against Parvo, rabies, and other serious conditions based on your area's kitten vaccination schedule.

The prognosis for Cats With Parvo

Feline parvo used to be a leading cause of cat death. Thanks to the preventive vaccine, this is no longer the case. However, once your cat gets parvo, survival rates are grim.

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 to follow up with booster shots for their cat's entire life.

Preventive measures always outweigh the cost and worry associated with treatment once your cat is already severely ill. Save them from the discomfort and high mortality rates associated with parvovirus.

If your cat shows signs of the deadly parvovirus, contact our Tucson vets today or your nearest 24-hour emergency vet to get the urgent care it needs.