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Symptoms of Parvovirus in Cats

There's nothing scarier for a pet parent than when your cat is sick. This is especially true if they contract a life-threatening illness such as parvo. Our Yucaipa vets share facts about parvovirus and how you can keep your cat safe.

What is parvo in cats?

Parvovirus in cats is also known as feline distemper or feline panleukopenia. Feline parvovirus attacks the cells in your cat's intestines, resulting in diarrhea, vomiting, and difficulty eating and drinking. It also attacks bone marrow, causing red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet deficiencies.

This condition is the most common and severe in kittens aged 3 to 5 months. Kittens are protected at birth by antibodies found in their mother's milk, but this protection fades by the time they reach 4 to 12 weeks old. 

Cats can contract parvovirus through exposure to infected feces, contaminated environments, or contact with other infected cats.

How Parvovirus Attacks Your Cat's Body

Parvo is a stomach and small intestine disease. The virus begins destroying the cat's gut barrier here by attacking healthy cells and preventing essential nutrient absorption.

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.

Why 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 is essential to understand that once your kitten begins showing symptoms, usually within three to ten days after exposure, they are 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

Although there is no cure for Parvo in kittens, your veterinarian will provide supportive treatments to relieve symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. To recover from Parvovirus, your kitten must be properly hydrated and fed. Unfortunately, this disease kills kittens at a high rate.

Secondary infections are common in Parvo-positive kittens (due to their weakened immune systems), so your veterinarian will closely monitor your kitten's condition and may prescribe antibiotics to combat any bacterial infections that may develop.

If your kitten receives veterinary care and survives the first four days after symptoms appear, he or she will most likely recover from the disease.

Preventing Parvovirus in Cats

Never expose your kitten to cats that have not been fully vaccinated against Parvovirus. Consult your veterinarian about the best ways 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

Historically, feline parvovirus was the leading cause of death in cats. Preventive vaccinations have made this unnecessary. However, if your cat contracts parvovirus, they have a slim chance of survival.

Adult cats with parvo are more likely to survive than kittens. Cats who receive veterinary care for parvovirus are more likely to survive than those who do not. Overall, up to 90% of cats who contract parvovirus and do not receive treatment will die.

We strongly advise all pet owners to vaccinate their kittens and cats and to administer booster shots throughout their cat's lifetime. Preventive measures are always more cost-effective and less stressful than treating your cat after it has become terminally ill. Protect them from the pain and high mortality rate caused by 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 Yucaipa vets today or your nearest emergency vet to get them the urgent care they need.

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Green Valley Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Yucaipa companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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