Can Cats Get Parvo? Everything You Need To Know About Feline Parvo

Can Cats Get Parvo

No fur parent wants to see their four-legged pal suffering from any type of disease, whether it’s a mild cold or a chronic GI problem. What if it’s a deadly case of parvo? 

Parvo is one of the most dangerous diseases that often impact dogs, and it is every dog owner’s worst nightmare. But, what about cats? Can cats get parvo?

You’ve probably heard of dogs (and puppies) getting the dreaded canine or dog parvovirus. If you have, then you’d know that it’s not a pretty sight.

Canine parvovirus is highly contagious. If a dog or puppy gets an infection and is left untreated, this viral disease’s mortality rate can go up to 91%. The good news here, though, is that parvo in dogs is preventable through routine vaccination.

Unfortunately, cat owners need to stay on their toes since the same type of disease exists in cats, and it is as transmissible and as life-threatening as canine parvovirus.

Thankfully, the chances of your feline friends avoiding this are high. Read on as we dive deep into the whats, whys, and hows of cat parvo.

What Is Cat Parvo?

Search for cat parvo on google, and you’ll discover that it is among the 5 most dangerous cat diseases along with feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia. 

Cat parvo is an illness that is caused by the feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), aka “feline parvovirus. Other sites call this “feline distemper,” or “feline infectious enteritis.”  

The feline panleukopenia and the canine parvovirus (CPV) belong to the Carnivore Protoparvovirus species. These do not infect people but can affect other animals. 

FPV is the leading cause of cat parvo, while CPV brings forth parvo in dogs. People have always thought that these viruses are species-specific.

However, the results of a 2012 study confirm feline panleukopenia in domestic cats can also be caused by CPV strains found in dogs. Another study states that FPV is also linked to diseases found in other animals like raccoons and minks.

Can Cats Get Parvo? Everything You Need To Know About Feline Parvo 1

Which Cats Are Most Susceptible?

FPV is perceived as a universal disease threat in any cat and feline-loving community. While all cats, regardless of age and breed, can get the resilient and ubiquitous parvovirus (just like puppies and dogs without vaccine), the young kittens and unvaccinated cats are the ones who are most at risk. 

Death resulting from parvo is commonly seen in cats age 2-6 months since, at this stage, kittens’ immunity through the vaccine has not fully developed. The antibodies that they’ve received from the mama cat also start to wane.

Apart from young kitties and cats without a vaccine, sick cats and kittens are also vulnerable.

How Do Cats Get Parvo?

Parvo virus can be found everywhere, especially in an environment that is not regularly cleaned and disinfected. This hardy virus has long lives and is immune to various disinfectants.

It can thrive in an infected environment for years. However, environments that house many cats, such as animal shelters, kennels, and pet shops, are considered hot spots.

The virus is transmitted through the infected cat’s stool, urine, blood, or any body fluids. Anything that comes in direct contact with these secretions can become a carrier of the virus. This includes people, things (like beddings, food dishes, and cages), and even fleas. 

A cat can get the infection when the virus enters its body through its mouth or nose. Since the virus can be passed indirectly, kittens and cats can get infected without directly contacting the infected cat.

Symptoms To Keep An Eye On

Panleukopenia comes from the Greek words: “pan” meaning “all,” “leuco” which means “white blood cells,” and “penia” meaning “loss of.” As such, cat parvo’s defining trait is the lowering of the white blood cell count. 

Once a cat or a kitten is infected, the virus attacks the rapidly developing and dividing body cells, including the bone marrow cells and the cells produced in the intestines, nervous system, and skin. An expecting cat’s developing fetus and its stem cells are also at risk.

While parvo symptoms in dogs are very similar to those seen in cats, there are a few differences. Diarrhea with blood is common in dogs but not in cats.

It is a must for every cat or kitten owner to know its symptoms since early detection of these signs can increase your cat’s chances of survival. Here’s a rundown of signs you need to watch out for:

  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Severe diarrhea (can be watery or diarrhea with or without blood)
  • Dehydration
  • Rough or poor quality coat
  • Depression

Kittens who have been affected by the virus while they are in their mom’s womb can also develop a condition called cerebellar hypoplasia

Can Cats Get Parvo? Everything You Need To Know About Feline Parvo 2

Diagnosis

If your cat exhibits any of the following signs, make sure to contact your vet. Parvovirus may not cause these symptoms, but they can still be caused by another disease that warrants you to contact your veterinarian. 

To confirm if your cat or kitten acquired the parvo infection, your vet will need to perform a physical examination.

Routine lab tests like urinalysis and complete blood count are also necessary. This virus often shows results of significant blood cell loss. 

Treatment

A dog or pup diagnosed with dog parvo requires immediate treatment. It’s the same with cats. Your veterinarian will (more often than not) recommend your infected cat to be hospitalized and isolated. And just like any type of virus, medications won’t put a stop to it. 

Since no specific treatment is available, boosting your cat’s immune system through supportive care and constant monitoring is vital to combat the virus. Here are just a few of the things that must be done to help your cat fight off this fatal disease:

  • Giving oral or IV fluids to keep them hydrated and maintain their electrolyte balance
  • Providing easy-to-digest food or any food they like to keep them energized
  • Giving antibiotics prevents secondary infection caused by opportunistic bacteria that attacks the cat’s weakened immune system

How To Prevent Parvo In Cats?

The saying “Prevention is better than cure” is true for any type of disease, most especially in virus-caused illnesses.

The absence of a specific treatment made this virus one of the leading causes of death in cats. Thanks to the availability of vaccines, cat (and dog) parvo are not as prevalent as it was in the past. 

Bottom line

Aside from regularly disinfecting your environment, vaccination is your best bet if you want to keep your cats protected.

Animal-loving people need to make sure that their pets get vaccination on time. This applies even to strictly indoor pets.

Can Cats Get Parvo? Everything You Need To Know About Feline Parvo 3

Is Parvo contagious from dogs to cats?

NO! Cats and dogs have their own separate, species-specific parvovirus strains. The cat strain, called feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), is a significant disease threat amongst the feline community, but it cannot be transferred to canines.

How long does it take for parvo to kill a cat?

In kittens over three or four weeks of age and in adult cats the virus causes a very severe gastroenteritis, following an incubation period of five to nine days. Affected cats develop acute onset hemorrhagic vomiting and diarrhea and some cats die rapidly.

Can parvo be cured in cats?

Unfortunately, there exists no cure for this virus. It's managed via supportive treatment that usually consists of providing hydration, nutrients and preventing secondary infection along. The medications and fluids given are to support the cat until its own body and immune system is able to fight off the virus.

Can indoor cats get parvo?

It rarely lasts longer than 12 weeks. Prevention is vital to your cat's health. Today, there are vaccines that offer the best protection from feline parvovirus infection. Vaccination is just as important for strictly indoor cats as for indoor/outdoor cats because the virus is everywhere in the environment.

  • May 6, 2021
Mary Nielsen
 

A huge animal lover, born and raised around dogs, cats, chickens... Self-educated pet care nerd. Currently parent of three adopted cats and one small mutt. Animal adoption advocate. Loves a good book (about animals) and playing the piano.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest recalls notices, news and other updates from our team.

You're in! Take 30% Off your next purchase at Chewy.com.