Can Cats Get Parvo?

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Can cats get parvo? Unfortunately they can. Parvo is short for parvovirus – one of the most feared viruses that impacts cats and dogs. However, cats and dogs are vulnerable to different types of parvo: feline and canine parvovirus correspondingly (see also Parvo in puppies). Todays’ topic is the feline panleukopenia virus: the nature, cause, symptoms and treatment.


Cat parvo or feline panleukopenia virus, shortly FPV has many names: infectious enteritis, parvoviral enteritis, ataxia, feline distemper or cat plagues. This viral infection affects both wild and domestic cats. FPV is similar to type 2 canine parvo and mink enteritis. This virus is highly contagious and can be deadly for any cat exposed to it. “Panleukopenia” comes from low white blood concentration that all affected animals show (read also

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Affected cats loose much water and experience severe dehydration. The virus moves from one place to another on contaminated objects and substances. Hands, shoes, bearing saliva or pieces of stool are among the most common means of transfer. But routinely, any virus can contact cat’s fur; the cat grooms itself, ingests contaminated fur and gets infected. Most cats under the age of twelve weeks have protection against the parvo due to temporary immunity delivered through mother’s milk. After breast feeding, this immunity ceases to protect the host (the kitten) and if exposed to the virus without having undergone proper vaccination, the host may die. As the kittens grow older, their bodies acquire a much stronger immunity that presents relatively more protection against parvo. Moreover, the bigger the body, the more water it can preserve inside thus, delaying the inevitable dehydration (more about

The mortality rate is malnourished, underdeveloped cats is higher than in those who are normal in their bodyweight and development (according to the standard of the breed at the certain age). Parvo diminishes the immune response and other collateral infections may worsen the overall well-being of the cat.

This is why vaccination against parvo is absolutely necessary.

Even though the premises in which the infected cat resides seem absolutely clean and safe, parvo may be hiding literally anywhere. Even outside, right under your feet, surviving winter and waiting for spring to come to resume its malevolent activity. The peak of parvo comes in late summer because the majority of kittens are born a month before that.

There is much speculation about whether carrier cats exist or not. Viruses that provide immunity during the whole lifetime do not “reside” in the body for long time. This is why it is hard to tell that carrier cats exist. It is more likely that a cat without apparent symptoms transfers the virus just like a cat that has recently recovered from the virus. A recovering cat may release the pathogen for about six weeks before it eventually sops. However, any cat if such kind cannot be called a carrier as it recovers and the virus leaves the body completely. Some veterinarians believe that the panleukopenia virus may remain dormant inside the cells of cats that survived parvo. Once a cat recovers from parvo, it is no longer susceptible to the disease.

Parvovirus: Transmission, Diagnosis, Complications

Parvo is transmitted through fomites like feces, bodily fluids, and fleas. It may be transferred via bedding, dishes, clothing and shoes of owners of infected animals. Parvo is not transmitted to humans and poses no danger to them. The virus attacks the lining of the alimentary tract, provoking ulcers and sloughing of the epithelium lining the intestines. It results in bloody diarrhea, dehydration, anemia and death. Parvo decreases cat’s white blood cells and impacts the immune system, making it vulnerable to an array of infections that normally are not threatening. A decrease in platelet and hematocrit is another noticeable sign that is helpful in diagnosing a cat with parvo.

Illy catSymptoms include the following: appetite loss, lethargy, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, dehydration and self-biting. Lethal cases show septic shock and disseminated intravascular coagulation. Secondary infections and complete loss of bodily water are the two reasons that are responsible for lethal outcome. If a pregnant cat is exposed to parvo, its offspring will experience cerebellar hypoplasia. In order to rule out other diseases and diagnose the FPL (feline panleukopenia) correctly, veterinarian performs blood and fecal analysis.

Kittens affected with FPL that are two months old or less die regardless of treatment. It happens in 90-95% of all cases (see also How to take care of newborn kittens). Kittens older than two months of age show a 60-70% mortality rate with treatment while any untreated kitten dies. Adult cats are more survivable: only 10-20% of all infected adult cats die. If not treated, the percentage is still very high – 85%. Feline panleukopenia beside symptoms mentioned above, provokes collateral conditions that worsen the overall clinical presentation. Hypotension, hyperpyrexia, hypothermia, thrombocytopenia, cardiomyopathy, myocarditis are among these collateral conditions. Some take place very often, while other is rare.

Parvo Symptoms in Cats

What makes parvo so feared is not only the evident – the possibility of lethal outcome.

It is also an array of symptoms that literally drains out the cat making it a feeble parody of a once healthy and strong animal. This disease may strike cats at any age, but it is more fatal for younger ones.

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The main reason why cats with parvo fade so quickly is the diarrhea. It provokes severe dehydration and total electrolyte imbalance. The water is no longer adequately stored in body and the little water being stored is searching for a way out. Diarrhea occurs every time the cat goes to evacuate its bowels. The blood clots that the stool shows are the result of intestinal ulcers and possibly of internal bleeding.


It’s not uncommon for cats with parvo to vomit immediately after eating or between meals. Thus, they release the previously eaten food or yellowish bile. Vomiting is one of the most evident parvo symptoms. You should know that a healthy cat will never vomit the food it previously ate and should you see such, contact your vet immediately.


Cats with parvo are lethargic, sluggish and show no sign of usual activity. The cat may be totally unresponsive when you try to interact with it.


Kitten medical examintionParvo is often accompanied with fever. You won’t notice any typical sign of fever, this is why you should purchase a vet thermometer and measure the temperature. Compare digits with the standard to see if the cat is in fever.


In later stages, FPL causes seizures that are sudden and short lasting. Cat may foam at mouth, writhe around and lose muscular control completely.

If you notice any of these signs, take the cat for the immediate veterinary assistance.

Can Cats Get Parvo from Dogs?

Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, veterinary writer, blogger and practicing specialist, made a research after hearing a press release from the Kansas State University saying “researchers are seeing that parvovirus can infect cats.”

Her research showed that the canine parvo can infect cats. In the 1970s, the canine parvovirus erupted suddenly and caused disastrous results. Many scientists believe that the canine version developed from the feline type or other closely related strains. Hence, all reports showing the contamination of felines with canine strain can be attributed to the canine strain redeveloping the ability to target and infect cats rather than evolving.

In her research, Coates referred to two important works on the issue:

Can cats get parvoStrains of the original CPV-2 virus (commonly known as the canine parvo) gained the ability to replicate in cats. However, the disease patterns showing in feline hosts are not completely examined. In 2008, two cases of parvoviral infection were diagnosed in laboratories: a CPV-2a strain was found in a 3-month old Persian kitten. It showed clinical signs of FPL: leukopenia, oral ulcerations and acute gastroenteritis. The kitten died eight days  after it was diagnosed with FPL. The shop where the poor kitten was found also contained two puppies bearing a CPV-2a strain which was identical to the feline virus. Another proven and documented case is a non-fatal infection by CPV-2c strain that occurred in a European shorthair kitten. A 2.5-month-old kitten showed normal white blood cells count and diarrhea without blood. The analysis showed that the feline CPV-2c strain found in this kitten was 100% identical to the CPV-2c canine strain.

Another study shows that the cats may be more prone to canine parvo then we might think. The result was unpromising: canine parvo was diagnosed in 13 fecal samples out of 50 (32.5%) taken in a cross sectional study of cats taken from a feline shelter. 61 samples out of 180 (33.9%) taken in a study of 74 cats from a mixed shelter showed no symptoms of disease. Authors of this study conclude that, cats which are clinically normal may shed the virus for long time and increase the probability of being carriers both for other cats and dogs as well. Thus, dogs can be affected as well and vice versa.

Home First Aid

Tired catIn majority of cases, home remedies can help a lot despite the evident suggestion to hospitalize the infected pet. Once you begin applying home remedies for parvo, keep record of everything you do. If there are no improvements within 6 hours, you should take the cat to the vet immediately.

  • Keep your cat hydrated. The cat may not want to eat or drink; this is why you should force feed water.
  • To treat diarrhea, you may use Pepto Bismol. Take the liquid formula and give to the cat using a syringe (without the needle).
  • Use a special solution containing water (one cup), Pedialyte and 1 activated charcoal tablet mixed in a 1-liter bottle. Feed 5-10 ml doses to the cat every 15-30 minutes if needed.
  • Colloidal silver is another option. Give it to your cat based on its weight.
  • Chamomile tea rehydrates and relaxes. It may be given every time right after the vomiting to restore bodily fluids and calm the cat.
  • Ginger tea promotes digestion. Use 1 ml of ginger tea in a dropper by placing it inside the puppy’s mouth.

Simple Basics of Treatment

Simple basic treatment in terms of cats’ health control may improve its condition until you eventually reach veterinary assistance.


Holistic norm is between 100.5 and 101.5. Anything below or above this tells of low- or high-grade fever. High-grade fever tells that the cat may dehydrate quickly due to overheating. A fever always tells about some secondary infections that may be taking place. Low-grade fever tells that, the kitten is chilled and needs warming. Put a light blanket on the cat to keep the cat warm. Low-grade fever requires warm water as cold may bring down the cat’s temperature further.

Cats parvoHydration

A hydrated cat has dark pink gums. White, grayish or light pink gums indicate that the cat may be dehydrated. We have recommended the above, to force water the cat. If it does not work, you may offer every 30 minutes amount of water enough for several licks – almost served with tablespoons. Thus, you may cheat cat’s brain: it knows that the body needs more fluid but gets less than needed. This is how despite the condition, body absorbs some water to withstand the hydration. Eventually, you’ll have to hospitalize your cat and once it arrives to the vet’s, he’ll administer intravenous fluids in abundance. Hydration within the veterinary practice is administered via IV’s and sub cue fluids which are injected under the skin. Sometimes, a cat may receive an enema which is the best option for cats that still vomit after getting water in any other way.


Antibiotics are used to prevent secondary infections.

Actually, any broad spectrum antibiotic works perfectly, but many vets consider using Colloidal Silver or Vibactra Plus, a natural herbal antibiotic. Any way, it is up to the vet to decide. Do not practice home treatment even if many reviews in the web tell you to do so.


Vomiting is an awful collateral problem that drains poor animal’s energy. Any movement can trigger vomiting. This is why letting the cat be on its own do not take it, and roll over. Dehydration is another reason, even majority of times the biggest reason. While dehydration is battled with much water intake, it can trigger vomiting as cat’s stomach is not ready to ingest much substance, whatever it may be. In order to evade vomiting, fluids may be administered rectally or given every 15-30 minutes in the amount of several licks only.


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As the cat infected with FPL doesn’t feel well, it will be very lethargic in order to preserve energy. It is the natural defense mechanism, while people are told to do so by docs otherwise; the recuperation will take more time. If you hospitalize the cat immediately, it will feel better sooner. Unless it happens, make sure the cat is not left unattended and don’t allow anyone around to take it. Let the cat stay calm and put.


When the cat starts to feel better, you’d better not give it any kibble which is too hard to digest. When the cat is ready to start eating, you should offer great food, we mean the one that the cat will certainly like. Practice tells that the type of food that the sick wants to eat is the one that will help him restore the health quicker. It is applicable both to humans and pets. A little plain yogurt, some cooked liver or chicken, low fat cottage cheese, raw goats milk are great choices. As the cat start eating, you should offer several small meals, better say snacks. Do not over-feed the cat! Even a completely healthy cat will be troubled, feeling its tummy is filled completely. Avoid giving solid food that requires much time for digestion! If the cat hasn’t eaten for several days, you should offer it liquefied meals like some raw egg, yogurt or colostrum given via syringe orally (more about Kitten food).

An Example of Treatment Strategy

Before we proceed with an example, consider reading the short disclaimer.

73bde42b-62d1-476d-86e3-3e91bd8dede2Disclaimer: We do not encourage, neither do we discourage our readers from treating the sick cat at home. We just provide the information that we consider to be helpful and trustworthy. No matter the possible outcome of such home treatment (whether good or not), you should never avoid proper veterinary assistance! We also do not endorse any particular manufacturer and do not advertise any remedies.

Distemper cats are very susceptible to the Kitty-DT also known as the Kitty Distempaid. This remedy is of natural origin and many cat owners that we came across while reading cat-related forums proved its effectiveness. They say that, this herbal organic remedy helps cats to overcome feline distemper and its symptoms. Herbs in its content soothe the alimentary tract; ease GI distress, cramping vomiting and diarrhea.

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  • Once the diagnosis is confirmed, give first dose of Kitty-DT and half an hour later; administer fluids, better via enema.
  • Administer fluid every hour as well as the Kitty-DT according to the directions and the severity of your cat’s case.
  • Keep the track of your procedures: how often you feed, offer water, make enemas and give the remedy. Such information is helpful once the vet sees it: he/she may make a conclusion on the severity of case and choose the best strategy for treatment.

This is not easy – watering the cat every hour and keeping the track of all procedures you are following. Nevertheless, it is the first aid that you may give your cat. No matter the situation, please consult with your vet and take the cat to vet’s as soon as possible.

Vaccination Against Parvo

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The best treatment is the one done beforehand or the vaccination. If the cat doesn’t go outdoors and doesn’t meet other cats, it is likely to never see parvo. If the cat is properly vaccinated at the age of 12 and 16 weeks, it will be protected against the virus as well. If the cat experienced parvo and survived it, it will undoubtedly have great immunity against parvo from then on. If you have doubts about your cat’s protection, ask the vet to perform an antibody titer test. Vaccination against parvo doesn’t necessarily need boosting in adult age, while some vets suggest doing so every 7 years. Kittens should reach the appropriate age before the shots can be performed. The immunity derived from mother during feeding blocks all vaccines that are given at early age. This is why you should wait till the kitten is 12 weeks old at least.

Pregnant cats and mothers with newly-born kittens should never be vaccinated with the MLV vaccine (a live-virus shot) until the kittens are born and have reached 4 weeks of age. In such case, inactivated vaccine may be the best option. Some vets suggest doing intranasal vaccines while common needled shots are no less effective. Needle-less and transdermal shots are a bit more safe as they do not cause vaccination-related tumors.

Kittens parvoToday veterinarians suggest to booster parvo shots every 3 years which is the interval suggested by the manufacturers themselves. Actually, the immunity lasts longer – for a lifetime. This is why the majority of vets suggest doing boosters once every 7 years. If you are not certain about the periodicity, your vet may perform an antibody test to panleukopenia. Frequent vaccinations are not as needed as many experts or cat fanciers may be telling you.


Undoubtedly, parvo is one of the most feared diseases that may strike a pet. Fortunately for all cat and dog fanciers, it can be treated relatively successfully and moreover – be prevented. Despite many facts on home treatment and comprehensive explanation of the virus, we strongly recommend following the most universal guideline – if the pet is severely ill, let vets treat it. Also, don’t forget that the best treatment is the one you don’t have to do. That’s why you should always consider appropriate vaccinations before letting the cat/dog/any pet you may have into the big world.