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Symptoms of Parvovirus in Cats

As a pet owner, you feel responsible when your cat is sick. It can even be overwhelming if they contract a life-threatening illness such as parvo. Find out all the facts about parvovirus from our Rabun County vets and how you can keep your cat safe.

What Is the cat parvovirus?

Parvo is also known as feline distemper or feline panleukopenia in cats. The feline parvovirus infects cells in your cat's intestines. This can result in diarrhea, vomiting, difficulty eating, and drinking. It also attacks the bone marrow, resulting in red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet shortages.

This condition is the most severe among kittens that are 3 to 5 months old. At birth, kittens are protected because of the antibodies in their mother's milk, but by the time they reach 4 to 12 weeks, this protection begins to fade. 

Parvo is widespread in most environments and nearly every cat will be exposed to it during their life. Apart from young kittens, sick or unvaccinated cats are most likely to contract this disease.

How Parvovirus Attacks Your Cat's Body

Parvo is a disease of the stomach and small intestines. 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.

Young Cats Are Susceptible to Parvo

If the mother is fully vaccinated against parvo her kittens will inherit antibodies that will protect them against the virus for the first few weeks of their lives. 

However, as the kittens begin to wean, their immune systems weaken and the young kittens become susceptible to the disease.

Vets advise pet parents to start vaccinating their kittens against parvovirus at 6 weeks of age, when the kitten begins to wean and the mother's antibodies are no longer available to protect them.

It isn't until the young cat has received all 3 vaccinations that they will be protected against the disease. It is during the gap between weaning and full vaccination that kittens are most likely to catch parvo.

Symptoms of Parvo 

It usually takes anywhere between 2-10 days for symptoms of parvovirus to appear. It is important to understand, however, that once your kitten begins showing symptoms, they are already very ill. Here are the symptoms you need to look out for.

  • Watery nasal discharge
  • Fever in the early stage 
  • Low body temperature
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • 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. If you see the slightest sign of any of these symptoms, contact your nearest emergency vet.

Treatment for Parvovirus in Cats & Kittens

While there is no cure for parvo in kittens, your veterinarian will treat symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. It is critical that your kitten receives adequate hydration and nutrition to aid in their recovery from parvovirus. Unfortunately, kittens have a significantly high mortality rate after contracting this disease.

As 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.

If your four-legged friend is being treated by a veterinarian and survives the first four days after symptoms appear, there is a good chance that your kitten will recover from the disease.

Preventing Parvovirus in Cats

Never allow your kitten to spend time around cats that have not been fully vaccinated against parvovirus. Talk to your vet about how best to protect your cat.

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 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 advise all pet owners to vaccinate their kittens and cats and to follow up with booster shots throughout their cat's life. Preventive measures always outweigh the cost and anxiety of treating your cat after it has become terminally ill.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

Has your cat been showing signs of the deadly parvovirus virus? If so, contact our Rabun County vets or your nearest emergency vet to get them urgent care.

We Can't Wait To Meet You!

Rabun Animal Hospital is currently accepting new patients! Our wonderful veterinarians are dedicated to the health and happiness of Rabun County dogs, cats, and exotic pets. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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