Diagnosis, treatment and prevention of feline panleukopenia


Known as feline parvovirus It is a virus that causes feline panleukopenia. This disease is quite serious and if left untreated it can end your cat's life in a short time. It affects cats of all ages and is very contagious.

It is important to know the symptoms and especially protect your cat with vaccination, since it is the only method of prevention. Very small or unvaccinated kittens should avoid contact with other cats until they have all their vaccines put in order not to get any of the most common diseases in cats.

In this Animal Expert article we will tell you all about feline parvovirus, so that you can recognize the symptoms and act correctly before an infection.

What is feline parvovirus?

He feline parvovirus It is a virus that causes the call feline panleukopenia. It is a highly contagious disease and very dangerous for cats. It has also been known as infectious feline enteritis, feline fever or feline ataxia.

The virus is present in the air, in the environment. That is why all cats at some point in their life will be exposed to him. It is important to vaccinate our cat against this disease, as it is very serious and can cause death. Do not miss our article in which we show you the calendar of vaccines for cats that you must follow.

The incubation period of the parvo virus in cats is 3-6 days and then the disease will progress for another 5-7 days progressively getting worse. A quick diagnosis is essential to combat it.

Parvovirus affects the normal division of cells, causes damage to the bone marrow and intestines. It determines the immune system, causing a decrease in the number of white blood cells, essential for a response against the disease. The red blood cells also descend causing anemia and weakness.

Contamination of feline parvovirus

Sick cats should remain isolated, as they are highly contagious. Your stool, urine, secretions and even fleas contain the virus.

As we have said before, the virus is in the environment. Although the cat is already cured everything that has come in contact with him is infected. In addition, the virus is very resistant and can remain in the environment for months. In this way, they should clean all utensils of the infected cat: the sandbox, toys and all the areas where he likes to lie down. You can use bleach diluted in water or consult your veterinarian about professional disinfectants.

Feline Parvovirus does not affect the human being, but we must maximize hygiene to eliminate the virus from the environment. It is advisable to keep young, sick or unvaccinated cats away from strange cats or who have overcome the disease a few months before.

The best way to avoid infection is prevention. Vaccinate your cat against parvovirus.

Symptoms of feline panleukopenia

The symptommore frequent of parvovirus in cats are:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Decay, fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody stool
  • Anemia

Vomiting and diarrhea can be very severe and dehydrate your kitten very quickly. It is essential to act as soon as possible and take our cat to the veterinarian as soon as we observe the first symptoms. Although it is not unusual for a cat to vomit at any given time, feline panleukopenia is characterized by constant vomiting and for a considerable weakness.

Treatment of feline panleukopenia

As with other diseases of viral origin, there is no specific treatment for feline parvovirus. It cannot be cured, just alleviate the symptoms and fight dehydration so that the cat can overcome the disease by itself.

Very young kittens or with an advanced state of the pathology have a very low survival rate. As soon as you notice symptoms of the disease, go immediately to your veterinarian.

Normally the hospitalizationof the cat to provide you with the right treatment. Dehydration and lack of nutrients will be fought and, most importantly, the spread of other diseases will be avoided. In addition, your body temperature will be controlled.

Since feline parvovirus affects the immune system, infected cats are more likely to get other bacterial or viral infections. Therefore, we insist on going to the veterinarian, as well as taking extreme precautions to prevent the disease from getting worse.

When your cat comes home, have a warm and comfortable place for him and give him many pampering until he recovers. Once your cat has overcome the disease it will become immune to it. But remember to clean all your things to prevent the spread of other cats.

This article is purely informative, at we have no power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any kind of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian in case he presents any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Feline Parvovirus - Contagion, Symptoms and Treatment, we recommend that you enter our Viral Diseases section.

Feline Infectious Diseases

It is of vital importance to maintain the body temperature of the patients, although many of them will present a fever due to the disease, if they are very dehydrated, hypothermias may appear that endanger their recovery capacity and, in some cases, their life. Comprehensive monitoring of these patients is crucial, so they need constant supervision by the technical staff.

It is clear that in our hands it is the treatment of all clinical signs and alterations derived from this disease, but it is the patient, or rather, his immune system, which must defeat the virus.

Therefore, it is essential to try to protect both kittens and adults, and that can only be done by vaccination and magnifying hygienic measures to prevent contagion.

  • According to the ABCD guide of the European Advisory Board on Cat Diseases, the primary vaccination should consist of a first dose between 8 and 9 weeks of age, and a second dose four weeks later, in cats with low risk of contracting the disease (Unique cats with indoor lifestyle).
    Maternal antibodies to the virus may be circulating until week 12, which may interfere with the immunity provided by the vaccine. For this reason, a third dose is recommended 4 weeks after the second, in cases with a higher risk of contracting the disease, such as kittens living in shelters. The author recommends this second protocol with three doses in all young feline patients. Obviously, if vaccination is started when the kitten is more than 16 weeks old, it would be enough with two doses, separated from each other 4 weeks.
  • From primary vaccination, booster doses will be administered annually throughout the life of the cat, including cats positive for leukemia (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency (IVF).
    In order to eliminate the virus from the environment it is necessary to thoroughly clean all objects and surfaces that have been in contact with the sick cat, preferably with an enzymatic detergent, to then repeat the operation with a dilution of bleach and water in proportion 1/30, which should be left on for 10 minutes. Also, veterinary cleaners containing chlorine dioxide and potassium peroxide-sulfate can be used.

Affected kittens should be kept isolated in adequate facilities from the presence of infectious patients.

What is parvovirus?

Feline parvovirus, also called feline distemper, is a disease transmitted by a virus: panleucopemia. It is very contagious, since this is a virus that is found in the environment and, therefore, all cats are exposed at some point. It is highly recommended (in fact, it is mandatory in many countries such as Spain) to put the vaccine against the virus when it is a kitten, because advances very quickly destroying rapidly dividing cells, such as those found in the intestines or bone marrow. Also can cause abortions, it affects developing fetuses.

What is feline p anleucopenia?

Feline panleukopenia (PF) is a highly contagious viral disease that occurs in cats and is caused by feline parvovirus. Over the years, it has been known with a variety of names, including feline distemper, infectious feline enteritis, feline fever or feline typhoid. Feline distemper should not be confused with canine distemper - although their names are similar, they are caused by different viruses. Since the panleukopenia virus is found in the environment, all adult kittens and cats are exposed to the virus at some time in their lives. Vaccination is extremely important since the rates of disease and death due to panleukopenia are high in cats that have not been vaccinated.

Feline parvovirus affects and kills rapidly dividing cells, such as those found in the bone marrow, intestines, and developing fetuses. In general, infected cats have bloody diarrhea due to damage to the cells that cover the intestines. They also develop panleukopenia (shortage of all types of white blood cells), since parvovirus infection damages the bone marrow and lymph nodes. White blood cells are necessary for the immune system to respond to infection. There may also be a decrease in red blood cells (a condition called anemia). The reduction in red blood cells and white blood cells is known as pancytopenia.

People cannot develop panleukopenia if they come into contact with an infected cat since the virus does not affect humans.

Parvovirus Symptoms

To know if our cat has been infected we will have to observe some of these symptoms in him:

  • Depression: You will begin to feel like nothing, being able to spend long periods in the same place without moving.
  • Fever: When the virus has infected the body, it will try to eliminate it causing a rise in body temperature.
  • Vomiting: They are very common. If they have a yellowish or even bloody color, they are likely to have parvovirus.
  • Diarrhea: Like vomiting, if your stools are soft and there are also traces of blood, it is because your health has weakened.
  • Loss of appetite: You can spend several minutes in front of the feeder without eating anything.
  • Runny nose: nasal secretions are very common, so if they are also accompanied by the mentioned symptoms, you will have to worry.
  • Dehydration: When vomiting and having diarrhea, the loss of water is noticeable.

If your cat has several of the symptoms, you have to go to the vet as soon as possible to examine it and put the most appropriate treatment. Only then can he recover.

How do cats get infected with the virus that causes Panleucopenia?

Cats can "eliminate" the virus in their urine, feces and nasal secretions, and infection occurs when cats that are susceptible come into contact with blood, urine, feces, nasal secretions and even with fleas from infected cats. An infected cat tends to eliminate the virus in a relatively short period (1-2 days), but the virus can survive up to a year in the environment, so cats can often become infected without coming into direct contact with a infected cat The beds, cages, food bowls and the hands and clothes of people who come into contact with infected cats can harbor the virus and transmit it to other cats. Therefore, it is very important to isolate infected cats. Other materials used in infected cats should not be used or allow them to come into contact with other cats, and people handling infected cats should have extreme hygiene to prevent the spread of infection.

Some strains of canine parvovirus have demonstrated ability to cause disease in cats, so we can inadvertently raise them in shoes.

The virus that causes feline panleukopenia is difficult to destroy and is resistant to most disinfectants. Bleach diluted 1:32 in water is effective.

Ideally, cats that have not been vaccinated are prohibited from entering areas where infected cats have been - even if those areas have already been disinfected.

Pregnant cats that become infected with the virus and become ill (even if they do not appear to be seriously ill) may abort or give birth to kittens with severe damage to the cerebellum, a part of the brain that coordinates the nerves, muscles and bones to lead to Corporal movements out. These kittens are born with a syndrome called feline ataxia, and their movements are accompanied by strong tremors (shaking).

In most cases, once a cat recovers from panleukopenia, it will not infect other cats through direct contact, but some recovered cats can continue to eliminate the virus in their feces and urine for six weeks.

What cats are susceptible to feline Panleucopenia?

Although cats can become infected with the feline parvovirus that causes panleukopenia at any age, young kittens, sick cats and those who have not been vaccinated are the most susceptible. Infection is common in cats 3-5 months old, deaths from panleukopenia are more common at this age.

The virus has been seen throughout Spain and in most countries of the world. Apparently, hatcheries, pet stores, animal shelters, colonies of unvaccinated wild cats and other areas where groups of cats have been housed are the main reservoirs of panleukopenia. During the warm months, urban areas are more likely to witness panleukopenia outbreaks since cats tend to come in more contact with other cats.

How is Panleukopenia treated?

The chances of recovery from panleukopenia in infected cats under eight weeks of age are very few. Older cats are more likely to survive if they are given adequate treatment on time.

Since there are no medications that are capable of killing the virus, hospitalization and sustainable treatment are critical to take care of the cat's health and provide medicine and fluids until his own body and immune system can fight the virus. Without such care, more than 90% of cats with panleukopenia could die.

Once the cat is diagnosed with panleukopenia, treatment is required to counteract dehydration, provide nutrients and avoid secondary infections. Although antibiotics do not kill the virus, they are usually necessary, since infected cats are at greater risk of getting bacterial infections - this is because their immune system is not working entirely (due to the decrease in white blood cells) and because the virus damages the intestines, which can allow bacteria found in your intestines to enter the cat's bloodstream and cause septicemia.

If the cat survives for five days, its chances of recovery will increase significantly. Once home, the area where the infected cat remained should be warm, free of drafts and very clean. Strict isolation from other cats is necessary

that could be at home to prevent the spread of the virus. Other cats that may have had contact with the infected cat or with objects or people who had contact with the sick cat, should be carefully monitored for any visible signs of the disease. Sadly, some cats may lose the will to live when they are very sick, so it is essential to pet them frequently, feed them by hand and provide good care to encourage them to heal.

How can feline Panleucopenia be avoided?

Cats that survive an infection develop some immunity that will probably protect them for the rest of their lives. Mild cases that go unnoticed will also produce immunity against future infections.

It is also possible that kittens receive temporary immunity through the transfer of antibodies in colostrum - the first milk produced by the mother. This is known as "passive immunity," and its duration to protect kittens from infections depends on the levels of protective antibodies produced by the mother. It rarely lasts more than 12 weeks.

The saying "better safe than sorry" definitely fits with panleukopenia - it is more effective to prevent an infection than to treat an infected cat. Today, there are vaccines that offer the best protection against infections due to feline parvovirus. Vaccines stimulate the cat's body to produce protective antibodies.

Subsequently, if the vaccinated cat comes into contact with an infected cat or is exposed to the virus in the environment, your body will possibly fight the infection thanks to those same antibodies produced in response to the vaccine. Vaccination is equally important for cats that remain strictly inside the house as well as for those that are inside and outside since the virus is in the environment.

Vaccines are effective in preventing panleukopenia but cannot treat or cure a cat without vaccinating once he has become ill. Vaccines must be given before the cat is exposed and infected.

Most young kittens receive their first vaccine when they are between six and eight weeks old and follow-up vaccines are given until the kitten reaches 16 weeks of age.

Vaccination programs for adults vary with the age and weight of the cat, as well as the risk factor for panleukopenia in the area. Cat owners should go to a veterinarian and ask for advice on an appropriate vaccination program for their cats.

American Veterinary Medical Association

Symptoms of Feline Panleukopenia

The first symptoms that occur in a cat infected with Panleucopenia Felina are diarrhea, vomiting, decay and depression, loss of appetite, fever that can reach a temperature of 40 degrees. Later due to these digestive problems, they begin to suffer from anemia, hemorrhagic diarrhea, extreme dehydration and anorexia.

It can even reach affect neurological functions. Since if the virus affects the cerebellum, it can cause Ataxia, which is lack of balance and coordination in muscle movements.

If the virus is contracted by a cat in a state of gestation, this condition could affect the neurological functions of the offspring. They would be born with Ataxia problems.

Causes of Feline Panleukopenia

Feline Parvovirus, the virus that causes Feline Panleukopenia It is a fairly dangerous and environmentally resistant virus, since it can remain alive for up to a year. In most cases, Cats usually become infected when they have some contact with feces of other cats They already have the disease. Since after the virus is contracted, it can be excreted in feces, urine or any fluid produced by the body of the infected cat.

However, this is not the only means of infection. The virus can also be acquired in a contaminated environment. That is, the virus can be present in any place where a infected cat has been. Since the moment a kitten begins to lick or lick something in an environment that is in these conditions, he would be ingesting it.

The virus after being ingested by the cat begins to multiply inside the digestive tract and bone marrow, spreading in this way throughout the body and is usually fatal because the main affected are the baby cats, which have not yet developed a strong immune system to fight it.

Diagnosis of Feline Panleukopenia

To make a diagnosis of this disease the first thing you should do is immediately take your cat to the vet If you see that you have any of the symptoms mentioned above. Diarrhea, vomiting, weakness and fever. There the expert doctor will use different methods to make a successful diagnosis such as:

Complete Hematology

When making a blood test where red blood cells, leukocytes and platelets are studied and its relative proportions the veterinarian will be able to detect that the patient is infected with this virus, so that the examination is performed at an early stage of the disease.

This test checks for leukopenia. (Reduction of leukocytes in the blood), which in severe cases will result in 50 to 3,000 leukocytes and in milder cases it will be 3,000 to 6,000 leukocytes.


By performing a ALT exam, to discard a liver involvement. Since ALT is an enzyme that helps the liver convert food into energy. And when an increase in this enzyme is detected, it may be that the liver is injured.

Coprological Exam

They would take coprological samples of the feces of the sick cat and would be performed immunochromatography exams (migration of a sample through a nitrocellulose membrane) or ELISA (Enzyme linked immunoassay technique).

These tests could yield 5 types of results:

  • Positive result for unvaccinated cats
  • Positive result for vaccinated cats, as it may happen that the vaccine has not been applied correctly.
  • Negative result, So the test yields a negative result, it does not necessarily mean there is no infection of this virus. It may be that the disease advanced to another stage and is no longer expelling the virus in the feces.
  • Negative result, If the test is performed in the first stage of the disease, it may not have developed yet and may appear irregularly.
  • Negative result, The cat is not a carrier of feline panleukopenia virus (FPV).

Treatment to combat Feline Panleukopenia

There is no specific treatment to combat this disease. The main thing you should do is take your cat immediately to the vet to be reviewed and subsequently diagnosed.

In most cases the doctor will try raise the patient's defenses through immunomodulatory therapy. In order for the immune system of the affected cat to start fighting the virus from the inside.

As for the digestive effects caused by the virus, these can be treated by supply of some antibiotics. Another primary part is rehydrate the patient's body, because of vomiting and diarrhea, severe levels of dehydration can occur.

However, despite the actions taken by the veterinarian on the affected cat if it does not have an immune system with high defenses, the disease can be fatal. This is why the majority of victims who suffer from it are young cats.

By last We want to remind you of the importance of putting all vaccines to your kittenWell, this is the most effective way to prevent him from suffering a disease as serious as Feline Panleukopenia.

This article is informative and in case of detecting any alarm sign, We recommend you go to your veterinarian so you can do the appropriate tests to detect this disease, as well as evaluate and implement the appropriate treatment.

If this article helped you learn something new about this disease, share it on your social networks.