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Feline Parvovirus

Education > Cat Health & Behaviour 13th March 2019

Feline parvovirus, also known as feline panleukopenia, is a highly contagious disease but preventable by vaccination. The virus is resistant to most disinfectants and can survive in the environment for a long time.

Infected cats can be contagious 2 to 3 days before any clinical signs, making control of an outbreak difficult. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea (may be bloody), lethargy and inappetance. The virus is shed in body fluids and faeces and most commonly transmitted by indirect contact. Susceptible cats become infected by the virus from a contaminated environment.

Vaccination is the best protection against this ubiquitous and dangerous disease.

Parvovirus attacks the intestinal lining, lymphoid tissue and bone marrow, and suppresses the body’s ability to fight infections. If a pregnant cat becomes infected, fetal death or severe neurological abnormalities causing tremors and blindness may develop in the kittens. Feline parvovirus causes severe clinical illness in young unvaccinated kittens. Kittens are particularly vulnerable between 3 and 5 months of age. Infected cats need to be isolated. All food dishes, beddings and cages must be disinfected with diluted bleach solution.

A presumptive diagnosis is usually made from a complete physical examination, clinical signs and blood tests (low white blood count). A faecal ELISA Snap test can confirm the diagnosis. Death can be avoided with timely symptomatic treatment and supportive care: fluid therapy to prevent dehydration; antibiotics to prevent secondary infections; anti-emetics to stop vomiting; appetite stimulants and blood transfusions if required.

Owners who lose a cat to feline parvovirus should not introduce a new kitten into the household without having it vaccinated and the environment appropriately disinfected with hospital grade disinfectants like Virkon. Household bleach diluted 1:32 can be used to clean and disinfect but it is easily inactivated by organic material.

Dr Eric Yeoh, Mount Pleasant Vet Centre (Changi)