Ever wonder what’s the purpose of certain vaccines for your cat? What do they do? Does your cat really need them?
Well the main purpose of vaccines is to stimulate a cat’s immune system in order to generate sufficient antibodies that will provide immunity to common viral infections present in your area. Just like human beings, this is how they can fight sickness.
In this article we will focus specifically on the science-y part of Parvovirus , which is also known as Feline Distemper, Feline panleukopenia and Feline Infectious Enteritis.
In this article we’ll cover:
Parvovirus, more commonly known as Feline Distemper, is a fatal virus that can lead to vomiting, bloody diarrhea, anemia, high fever, and eventually death. This is a virus that is highly contagious and spreads via fecal-oral contact.
It is an extremely resilient virus not easily destroyed with disinfectants. Furthermore, it can reside in the environment for 1 year and become infective once a ingested by a host.
As a general rule of thumb, viral infections have an incubation period, this is the time the virus enters the host animal to when a veterinarian may see observable clinical signs. For Parvovirus it is 1 week But sometimes, a clinically infected animal will appear healthy!
Viruses like Parvovirus will have the period of infectivity, this means that during this period a cat will begin to shed the virus which will infect other cats and kittens.
This short video summarizes what parvovirus is.
Yes, cats of any age can shed the virus and show clinical signs that can include:
A cat is most susceptible to the virus when living in a colony and in close quarters to other cats or even dogs that are not vaccinated. For example shelters, pet boarding facilities and even sharing the same litter box are all good reservoirs for the virus to thrive in.
Any unvaccinated cat can get parvovirus. Queens who are pregnant and unvaccinated can easily spread the virus to her unborn kittens which can lead to abortion or the virus may spread to the kitten’s brain which may lead to an inability of the cerebellum to develop properly.
The video below shows just how bad Parvovirus can affect cats.
Yes! Kittens are the most susceptible to Parvovirus! Ever wonder why your vet makes you come in with your new kitten every few weeks for a booster vaccine?
Well, the reason veterinarians vaccinate kittens more frequently with boosters is that they are trying to introduce antibodies against the Parvovirus antigen as the maternal antibodies in the kitten decrease with time.
Maternal antibodies are the antibodies transferred from the mother (Queen) to her kittens via her colostrum (milk which is rich in antibodies). This allows the kittens to develop a stronger immune system over time. However, the maternal antibodies are not protective against Parvovirus.
By approximately 12 to 14 weeks of age, maternal antibodies start to decline in concentration which is why many veterinarians will administer a booster vaccine during this time in order to enable and establish an active immunity for the kitten against Parvovirus.
Kittens have a really high mortality rate (about 90%) this means that when an un-vaccinated kitten or neonate contracts the virus then they are very likely going to die from the disease.
As such a dead kitten is not going to carry a virus, since they’re dead. A kitten that may miraculously make it through the virus may shed the virus for a couple of weeks and should no longer carry the virus once re-vaccinated when healthy.
For the most part cats and kittens that do survive a parvovirus infection are not likely to carry the infection in the future. Rather they are more likely to develop a stronger and more resilient immune system against the viral infection.
This means that a kitten or cat previously exposed to the virus can develop a milder form of the infection or may be asymptomatic. However, these animals are potential reservoirs that will shed the virus and can impact kittens who are not protected via maternal antibodies or vaccines.
Once a cat or kitten gets feline distemper, then there is no way of eliminating the virus through drugs. Antibiotics will not work on viruses and so the body has to generate sufficient antibodies specific to parvovirus in order to develop a strong enough immune response.
It’s often the symptoms and clinical signs that will result in a cat or kitten’s death. So a veterinarian will aim to treat the symptoms and not the virus itself. Some treatment plans may include fluid therapy due to dehydration, electrolytes and assisted feeding with recovery food.
In severe cases where blood loss due to anemia may occur. A veterinarian will recommend a blood transfusion. Bare in mind that many cats and most especially kittens may not make it through this battling process but for those that do recover should be vaccinated when healthy.
Both cat’s and kittens can get Parvovirus. However, generally kittens are easily more susceptible to the viral infection as they do not have have the development of active immunity and they do not have a strong enough immune system to battle all the clinical signs that occur. As in the common cold and pink eye, kittens can transfer this virus from one to another.
Remember! Vaccines are important! It is the best way to avoid your cat or kitten from contracting the virus is to vaccinate them yearly against it! Keep your home clean and keep your cats indoors.
Parvovirus is a dangerous viral infection that can be fatal to your cat or kitten. Have a cat that survived it? If you have an interesting story to share or if you have any more questions regarding the virus then please drop a comment below!
I’m the proud owner of 30-40 cats, at any given time. People call me the cat kingpin and if you have a problem with that, maybe we’ll see if you like sleeping with the fishes.