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Feline Parvo in Cats causes Signs and Treatment



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Feline parvovirus (FPV), also called panleukopenia, feline distemper, feline infectious enteritis and cat typhoid, is a very dangerous and often fatal disease.  FPV used to be the leading cause of feline death, but the availability of an effective vaccine has made the disease less common. 

Basic FPV Facts:

* Feline parvo (distemper) and canine parvo (distemper) are not the same.  A different virus causes each disease.

* The virus affects the immune system by destroying white blood cells, which compromises the cat's ability to fight off other diseases and infections.  It can severely inhibit the cat's digestive functioning, resulting in the inability of the intestines to properly digest food or absorb necessary nutrients and liquids, as well as alter the enzymes in the liver.

* FPV is highly contagious to unvaccinated cats.  Once the disease has been contracted, there is no cure.  Your veterinarian will only be able to administer supportive care.

* Kittens, and adult cats with weakened immune systems, run the greatest risk of not surviving the infection.  An otherwise healthy cat is usually able to fight off the virus with proper medical intervention and, after they recover, will develop a natural immunity to FPV for life.

* FPV is resistant to disinfectants and can survive in the environment for over a year.  During that time, the virus is still potent enough to infect any unprotected cats that come into contact with it.  
 
* Infected cats can be contagious 2 or 3 days prior to the on-set of noticeable symptoms.


The Causes of FPV:

* FPV is commonly transmitted by exposure to the urine, blood, feces, nasal discharge or fleas from an infected cat.  Humans who come in contact with an infected cat's bodily waste and secretions can also transmit the disease to an uninfected cat if proper disposal of contaminated items and proper personal hygiene is not practiced before interacting with other cats.  (A water and bleach solution is the only viable method of killing the virus.)

* Kittens can contract FPV while in an infected mother's uterus.  Due to their immature immune systems, they run a 50 - 90% chance of dying from the disease. Surviving newborns often develop permanent brain damage (cerebellar hypoplasia), resulting in muscular or neurological tremors that impair their ability to walk and navigate. 

The Symptoms:

* Continuous, often severe, vomiting
* Fever
* Decreased or complete loss of appetite
* Diarrhea - may contain blood, be yellowish in color, and smell extremely foul
* Weight loss
* Dehydration - the cat may sit a stare at the water bowl for extended periods of time but never actually drink
* Lethargy and depression
* A yellowing of the ears and eyes

Cats are experts at hiding illnesses and may already be severely ill by the time outward symptoms are visible.  As soon as your cat displays any of these symptoms, get them to your veterinarian for an exam, diagnosis and treatment.


The Treatments:

Remember, there is no cure for FPV, only supportive care. The earlier you get your cat to the vet, the better their chance of survival.  Without veterinary supportive care, close to 90% of cats suffering from FPV will die.

* Once your cat has been diagnosed, the vet will focus on getting the cat hydrated and providing vital nutrients to the body's systems.  An IV will be administered.  Along with the basic hydration fluids, the IV will likely also contain medications to stop the vomiting and diarrhea, antibiotics to treat any secondary bacterial infections that may be present, and, in cats suffering from seizures, anti-convulsive medications.

* If the cat makes it through the first 48 hours of supportive care, their chance of recovering dramatically increases. 

* Depending upon the severity of the infection, the age and health of the cat, and potential medical complications that may occur, several weeks of continued supportive care may be necessary for the cat to fully recover.

* All of the infected cat's bedding, litter boxes, food and water bowls, toys, etc. should be removed from the house and the area thoroughly cleaned with the aforementioned bleach solution (31 part water to 1 part bleach). 

* Once your cat returns home, make sure that they are provided with a clean, warm room, without drafts, and new (or decontaminated) bowls, litter and bedding. 

* Sick cats often get depressed, so be sure and offer as much love and attention as possible during the recovery period.

* If other cats are present in the household, the recovering cat must be isolated from them and, if the other cats have not been vaccinated, they will also need to be monitored for developing symptoms.  You will need to pay strict attention to proper personal hygiene (hand washing, changing clothes, etc.) to prevent spreading the disease.

Prevention:

* Get your cats vaccinated! 

* Kittens should get their first dose when they are 6-8 weeks old and follow-up vaccines are needed at 9, 12, and 16 weeks.  Once a cat has been properly vaccinated, their immune system is able to fight off the infection for the rest of their life.

Resources:

Your veterinarian should always be your primary resource for any major issues concerning the health of your cat. 

If you do visit Internet websites, make sure they are accredited veterinary sites.  A few with good information on this topic include:

www.cats.org.uk/catcare/leaflets/VET19-FelineParvovirus.pdf

www.veterinaryassociates.net/feline-panleukopenia.htm

www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/viral/c_ct_feline_panleukopenia

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