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Vet Tech Rounds: Feline Parvovirus (Panleukopenia)

Vet Talks 4 min read
cat opening the mouth
Vet Tech Holly with her Dog

Feline panleukopenia virus is a species of parvovirus that can infect all wild and domestic members of the feline family worldwide. It is a highly contagious, severe infection that causes gastrointestinal, immune system, and nervous system disease.

What is Feline Parvovirus (Panleukopenia)?

Most people are familiar with canine parvovirus, feline panleukopenia is very similar to parvo in dogs. Both viruses are very closely related. It is a very common condition in unvaccinated kittens and roaming, outdoor cats. The problem with the feline Panleukopenia virus is that it survives for a very long time in the environment and it has become resistant to various disinfectants.

It is spread by direct contact with infected blood, feces, urine, and other bodily fluids and indirectly by contamination of inanimate objects that an infected cat may have been in contact with such as food bowls, brushes, bedding, etc. Infected cats can continue to shed the virus for up to 6 weeks after contracting it. It is very important for people handling infected cats to wash their hands after coming into contact with them and anything they may have used.

Symptoms of Panleukopenia

• Dehydration
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Bloody Stools
• Weight loss
• Lethargy
• Fever
• Loss of Appetite
• Anemia

 parvovirus diagram

Diagnosis of Panleukopenia

There are several tests that can be performed in order to test for panleukopenia. The most common ones are: first is the Complete Blood Count (CBC) and the second being the Enzyme-Linked Immunofluorescent Antibody (ELISA).  Sometimes testing can return negative results even if it is infected, therefore it is very important to continue with testing and care of a very sick kitty. It is also best to still handle all things as if they are infected to prevent further transmission of Feline Panleukopenia.

The complete blood count or blood smear is a simple test performed by taking a blood sample and this then smeared on a glass slide. A microscope is then used to count different blood cells. The biggest indication that a cat is infected, is a low count of white blood cells. White blood cells are part of the immune system and they help protect from an infection in the body, this is why panleukopenia cats are highly susceptible to infection.

cat lying on the floor

How to protect your kitty from Feline Panleukopenia

The best option for avoiding these diseases is to take any preventative measures that you can. First and foremost, vaccines are available in order to prevent your kitty from getting sick. Kittens generally require this vaccine between the age of 8 and 16 weeks. After the first year, a booster should be given and it is essential that you return with your fur kiddo one to three times a year for the vaccine, if missed they must be started again. If you are bringing another kitty into your family, then it is recommended that they are vaccinated prior to the introduction or kept quarantined.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this, so most treatments are used to manage the symptoms while giving the immune system a chance to fight back. The infection is so severe that it usually requires hospitalization and IV fluids can be given to treat any dehydration. Antibiotics can be prescribed to treat secondary infections, but they will not kill the virus itself.

Cats living at home with the virus should be kept away from all other cats. As mentioned previously, the virus can shed in the environment for up to several weeks even after symptoms have cleared. Litterboxes must not be shared, and your kitty must be kept as an indoor cat.

cat at home behind a cat tree looking sad

NHV Supplements to Support Feline Panleukopenia

The main supplement that we would recommend would be Felimm, but others will also support a cat with parvovirus:

  1. Felimm – Helps strengthen the immune system. It also helps fight infection, this is useful when battling any autoimmune-related issues associated with FP.
  2. Natures Immuno – Another supplement that will help the immune system. The Shiitake Mushroom in this formula contains a polysaccharide that has virus-like particles that will help to increase the production of lymphokines. The lymphokines stimulate the body’s defense system to attack bacteria and viruses.
  3. Yucca – Yucca will help with the negative effects of the virus such as vomiting and diarrhea. This herb is rich in Vitamins C, B, magnesium, iron, calcium and so many more. Two compounds found in Yucca, sarsasapogenin, and smilagenin work on the mucous membranes of the small intestine. Both these components also act as precursors to corticosteroids produced naturally by the body.

Published: January 17, 2020

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