It can be extremely scary when your cat comes down with conditions you know nothing about, which is why I take the time to do the research and get the answers you need for you.
Feline panleukopenia virus is scary – there’s no doubt about that.
What is Feline Panleukopenia Virus?
This is a very contagious viral virus that is deadly to cats all across the globe. The disease is caused by feline parvovirus, which is mostly seen in kittens and young cats.
This virus is also known as feline distemper because it’s closely related to the canine version of parvovirus.
Unfortunately, this virus rapidly attacks dividing blood cells in a cat’s body, especially in the skin, bone marrow, and the intestinal tract.
In short, the cells that are needed to protect a cat’s body are attacked and killed.
This is one of the deadliest viruses for cats because it’s an incredibly resilient one. It can actually survive for many years in an environment that is contaminated with the virus.
Causes of FPV Infection in Cats
Cats become infected with FPV when they are exposed to and infected with the feline parvovirus.
The infection occurs when they come into direct contact with urine, feces, blood, and any other form of bodily fluid that is infected.
Unfortunately, it can also be passed through human contact, as well. A cat can become infected with the virus through a human who has not washed or sterilized their hands after coming into contact with contaminated bedding, equipment, food and water dishes, and, especially, other cats.
This does not mean that clean areas harbor the virus. A messy environment could be completely free of the virus, while a super clean home could be running rampant with it.
With this in mind, new cats in your home should be quarantined from other cats in your home with you washing and sterilizing everything it comes into contact with. This is especially important when it comes to taking a shower or bath after handling or being around the cat to ensure you don’t infect any other cats living in your home.
However, this isn’t always a sure thing. As I mentioned before, this is a very resilient virus.
Is Your Cat at Risk?
Kittens who are aged between 2 to 6 months have the highest risk of developing this virus and the symptoms that come with it.
Cats who have compromised immune systems as well as cats who are pregnant are also at a high risk.
Kittens who are growing inside their mother can actually become infected before being born and through nursing. While in utero, it’s very rare kittens will have a chance to survive once born.
Even if you get your kitten, or adult cat, from a shelter, rescue, whatever the case may be, they still may be infected. It’s no one’s fault – this is a virus that can be hard to detect in certain cats, so it’s not always as easily seen as you may think it is.
Adult cats aren’t usually at risk if they are not pregnant and are pretty healthy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. In adult cats, the virus can slip under your radar and be almost undetectable by their owners.
If you’re someone who likes to feed feral cat colonies, you should do so at a distance and make sure you and any items that come into direct contact are washed properly. Feral cat colonies often harbor the virus.
Fortunately for us all, if your cat has FPV but survives, they become immune to becoming infected again the rest of their life.
What Happens to Cats With FPV
Cats who are afflicted with this virus tend to be anemic and are susceptible to viral and bacterial illnesses.
Listed below are the most common symptoms seen in cats who have FPV:
- Bloody Diarrhea/”Normal” Diarrhea
- Weight Loss
- High Fever
- Rough Coat
- Abnormal Loss of Interest in Food
- Lack of Coordination and Other Neurological Symptoms
- Hiding in the Home
If you spot any of the symptoms of FPV listed above, bring your cat to the vet as soon as you can.
The most critical point of spreading, or shedding, the virus typically occurs between 1 to 3 days after initial infection. As I mentioned before, quarantine is extremely important.
Vaccines and Protecting Against FPV
There is a vaccine available for FPV, but it’s not always totally effective.
Preventing against FPV isn’t the easiest thing to do, but it can be done.
Have your cats brought in to see your vet on a regular basis and quarantine any new cats brought into your home. This should still be done even if the rescue or shelter you got the new cat from has been handed over with a clean bill of health.
Any feral cats taken into your home should be quarantined, as well. More so, even.
Mild cases of the FPV virus lead to immunity for life, as I mentioned before, but you should not rely on this occurring. FPV is a virus that kills more often than create future immunity.
Kittens who are born from an infected mother may have a chance at survival due to antibodies being passed in the colostrum through nursing. However, this passive immunity only lasts for so long. It’s not permanent and will only last for a maximum of 12 weeks time.
The best prevention method is the vaccine, but it’s not a sure one. Some cat owners believe their cats don’t need it because their cat is a strict indoor-only cat. Don’t be that type of cat owner – vaccinate your cat against this harmful virus even if you believe there’s no chance of them becoming infected.
The majority of kittens receive any essential vaccine the ages of 6 to 8 weeks, while follow-up vaccinations are done when they are between 15 to 17 weeks of age. From there, adult vaccinations depend on the health of your cat and their needs, which is discussed with your vet.
Treatment – What You Can Expect
The only way a cat can receive proper treatment for this virus is by bringing them to the vet.
Do not try to treat FPV yourself. You will fail and your cat will die.
Young kittens less than 3 months old have very little chance of making it, while older, adult cats have a better chance.
However, regardless of the chances, you can’t provide the same type of treatment and care that a vet can, which is why you need to bring them to the vet as soon as possible.
The treatment used in caring for cats suffering from the virus tends to focus on treating the symptoms and reversing them to give your cat a better chance of fighting back and surviving.
Treatment will focus on providing the proper amount of nutrients needed to fight against the harsh symptoms, especially when it comes to dehydration.
Antibiotics cannot kill the virus, but they do help quite a bit due to the fact that your cat’s immune system will be compromised by the virus.
Bacteria from said virus also has a chance to get into your cat’s bloodstream, so antibiotics are important as part of the healing and treatment process.
Quarantine from other cats during this time, as I’ve already mentioned a bunch of times here, is critical.
In short, if your cat is able to survive for 5 days, the chances of them recovering fully is great.
Educate Yourself on FPV
FPV is a scary, scary virus for your cat to go through. The most important thing you need to do as a pet owner, of virtually any animal whatsoever, is to monitor your pet for symptoms and odd behavior.
Time is not on your side if your cat is dealing with an FPV infection. Act as quickly as you can.