What Is Parvo in Cats?
Feline parvovirus, commonly known as parvo in cats or feline distemper, is a highly contagious disease that also goes by the name feline panleukopenia. It specifically targets the cells lining the intestines of cats, leading to symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and difficulties with eating and drinking. Additionally, it attacks the bone marrow, causing a decrease in the production of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
This condition primarily affects kittens between the ages of 3 and 5 months, as they gradually lose the immunity passed on from their mother's milk during the first few weeks of life. While newborn kittens are shielded by maternal antibodies, this protection diminishes between 4 and 12 weeks of age.
Parvo is prevalent in various environments, making exposure inevitable for nearly every cat throughout their lifetime. However, the highest risk of contracting the disease lies with young kittens and cats that are unvaccinated or already weakened by illness.
How Parvovirus Attacks Your Cat's Body
Parvo is considered a disease of the stomach and small intestines. It is here that 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.
Why Young Cats Are Susceptible to Parvo
If the mother cat has been fully vaccinated against Parvo, her kittens will receive protective antibodies that can safeguard them against the virus during the initial weeks of their lives.
However, as the kittens transition to weaning and their reliance on their mother's antibodies diminishes, their immune systems become more vulnerable, rendering them susceptible to the disease.
Veterinarians strongly advise pet owners to commence vaccinating their kittens against Parvo at around 6 weeks of age, coinciding with the onset of weaning and the gradual decline of maternal antibodies.
It is crucial for kittens to receive all three rounds of vaccinations to establish full protection against Parvo. It is during the period between weaning and completing the vaccination schedule that kittens are at the highest risk of contracting the disease.
Symptoms of Parvo
It is essential to understand that once your kitten begins showing symptoms they are already very ill. Here are the symptoms you need to look out for.
- Lethargy and depression
- Inability to eat
- Weight loss
- Vomiting or frothing at the mouth
- Bloody diarrhea
- Watery nasal discharge
- Fever in the early stage followed by low body temperature
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
Regrettably, there is currently no known cure for Parvo in kittens. Nevertheless, your veterinarian will provide supportive treatments to alleviate symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Ensuring proper hydration and nutrition for your kitten is crucial to aid in their recovery from Parvovirus. It is disheartening to note that kittens face a high mortality rate upon contracting this disease.
Due to their weakened immune systems, kittens with Parvo are susceptible to secondary infections. Therefore, your veterinarian will closely monitor your kitten's condition and may prescribe antibiotics to combat any potential bacterial infections that may arise.
If your furry companion receives veterinary care and manages to survive the initial four days after symptom onset, there is a promising likelihood of recovery 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
Previously, feline parvo presented a substantial danger and was a prominent contributor to feline mortality. Fortunately, the situation has improved significantly due to the widespread use of preventive vaccines. Vaccination has played a vital role in mitigating the impact of parvo on cat populations. Despite this progress, if a cat does become infected with parvo, the outlook for survival remains bleak.
When it comes to parvo, adult cats generally have a better chance of surviving compared to kittens. Additionally, cats that receive prompt veterinary care for their parvo have a higher likelihood of survival than those left untreated. Without treatment, the overall mortality rate for cats with parvo can reach up to 90 percent.
We strongly emphasize the importance of vaccinating kittens and cats and ensuring they receive booster shots throughout their lives. Taking preventive measures through vaccination outweighs the financial costs and concerns associated with treating a severely ill cat. By vaccinating, you can spare your feline companion from the discomfort and high mortality rates linked to parvovirus infection.