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Symptoms of Parvovirus in Cats

As a pet parent, it can be very worrying when your cat falls ill. This is especially true if they develop a serious illness like parvovirus. Our veterinarians in Louisa would like to share some important information about parvovirus and provide tips on keeping your cat safe and healthy.

What Is Parvo in Cats?

Parvo in cats, also known as feline distemper and feline panleukopenia, is a serious condition caused by the feline parvovirus. This virus targets the cells in a cat's intestines, resulting in symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty eating and drinking. It also attacks the bone marrow, leading to a shortage of red and white blood cells and platelets. 

This condition is particularly severe for kittens between 3 and 5 months old, as they have not yet built up their immunity. Kittens are initially protected from the virus by the antibodies in their mother's milk, but this protection begins to fade between 4 and 12 weeks of age. 

Parvo is prevalent in most environments, and almost all cats will be exposed to it at some point in their lives. However, young kittens, sick or unvaccinated cats, and sick or unvaccinated cats are most susceptible to the disease.

How Parvovirus Attacks Your Cat's Body

Parvo is a disease that primarily affects cats' stomachs and small intestines. The virus attacks healthy cells, damaging the gut barrier and blocking the absorption of essential nutrients.

In kittens, Parvo can also attack the bone marrow and lymphopoietic tissues, which are crucial for the immune system. If left untreated, the virus may also affect the cat's heart.

Why Young Cats Are Susceptible to Parvo

When a mother cat is fully vaccinated against Parvo, her kittens will receive antibodies from her that will protect them from the virus for the first few weeks of their lives. However, as the kittens start to wean, their immune systems weaken and become more susceptible to the disease.

Veterinarians recommend that pet owners begin vaccinating their kittens against Parvo at six weeks of age when the kittens start to wean and the antibodies from the mother are no longer available to protect them. It takes three vaccinations for the young cat to be fully protected against the disease.

Kittens are most likely to catch Parvo between weaning and full vaccination. Therefore, taking precautionary measures and vaccinating them as soon as possible is important.

Symptoms of Parvo 

It is essential to understand that once your kitten begins showing symptoms, it is already very ill. Here are the symptoms you need to look out for.

  • 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. If you see the slightest sign of any of these symptoms, contact your nearest emergency vet immediately.

Treatment for Parvovirus in Cats & Kittens

Parvovirus is a severe disease that affects kittens; sadly, there is no cure for it. However, your veterinarian will provide supportive treatments to address symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. Your kitten must receive sufficient hydration and nutrition to recover from the virus. Unfortunately, kittens have a high mortality rate following the contraction of this disease.

Since kittens with Parvo have weakened immune systems, secondary infections are common. To combat this, your vet will closely monitor your kitten's ongoing condition and may prescribe antibiotics to treat any bacterial infections that may develop.

If a veterinarian is treating your kitten and the kitten survives the first four days after symptoms appear, there is a good chance that they 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 new four-legged family member.

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 parvovirus used to be a significant cause of death in cats. However, this is no longer the case thanks to the preventive vaccine. But, if your cat gets infected with Parvo, the survival rates are low.

Adult cats have better chances of survival as compared to kittens if they get infected with Parvo. Cats that receive veterinary care for their Parvo have a higher chance of survival than those who don't.

Overall, up to 90 percent of cats who get Parvo and are left untreated will die.

We strongly recommend that every pet owner vaccinate their kittens and cats and follow up with booster shots for their cats' entire lives.

Preventive measures are always better than the cost and worry associated with treatment once your cat is already severely ill.

Save your cat from the discomfort and high mortality rates associated with parvovirus.

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.

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

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Tri-County Animal Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Louisa companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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(606) 673-1144