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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 Los Angeles vets and how you can keep your cat safe.

What is the cat parvovirus?

Cats can also be affected by a disease called parvo, which is sometimes referred to as feline distemper or feline panleukopenia. The cells of your cat's intestines are attacked by feline parvovirus. Diarrhea, vomiting, and difficulty eating and drinking may occur as a result of this. The bone marrow is also affected, causing a decrease in red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Kittens aged 3 to 5 months experience the most severe form of this condition. Antibodies found in their mother's milk protect kittens at birth, but this protection diminishes as they grow between 4 to 12 weeks old.

Most environments have a high prevalence of parvovirus, and it is highly likely that every cat will contract the virus at some point in their lives. In addition to young kittens, cats that are sick or have not been vaccinated are at a higher risk of contracting the 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 urge pet parents to begin vaccinating their kittens against Parvo starting at 6 weeks of age when the kitten begins to wean and the antibodies from the mother 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 important to understand 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

Although Parvo in kittens cannot be cured, your veterinarian will suggest supportive treatments to help alleviate symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Ensuring your kitten receives adequate hydration and nutrition is crucial for their recovery from Parvovirus. Regrettably, this disease leads to a much higher mortality rate among kittens.

Kittens with parvo often experience secondary infections due to their weakened immune systems. Your vet will closely monitor your kitten's condition and may prescribe antibiotics to address any bacterial infections that may arise.

If your furry companion receives veterinary care and makes it through the initial four days after symptoms show up, there's a good chance your kitten will bounce back from the illness.

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

Cats used to die most often from feline parvovirus. Preventive vaccinations have changed the situation. But if your cat gets infected with parvovirus, the chances of survival are low.

Parvo has a higher chance of being survived by adult cats compared to kittens. Cats who receive veterinary care for parvovirus are more likely to survive compared to those who do not. In general, cats that contract parvovirus and do not receive treatment have a mortality rate of up to 90%.

Vaccinating your kittens and cats, and ensuring they receive booster shots throughout their lives, is highly recommended for all pet owners. It is always better to take preventive measures rather than dealing with the high cost and stress of treating your cat when it is already 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 Los Angeles vets or your nearest 24-hour emergency vet to get them urgent care.

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Shatto Veterinary Center welcomes cats, dogs, and their people to our clinic! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Los Angeles companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's appointment.

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