Rise in cases of deadly virus in kittens

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feline parvovirus

Lort Smith Animal Hospital is reporting a significant spike in cases of the deadly feline parvovirus (FPV).

“We have seen 10 cases of feline parvovirus over the past two months,” Hospital head Dr David Cunliffe said.  

“In 2019 we only saw a few cases across the entire year. This current trend is worrying.” 

FPV, also known as panleukopenia, attacks the cells that line the small intestine and causes severe immunosuppression. It is related to the deadly canine parvovirus. 

Cricket (pictured) was only six weeks old when he was found dumped in a plastic bag in Flemington. At Lort Smith it was discovered he had the deadly disease. Luckily he was treated in time and has made a full recovery. 

Sadly for many cats, by the time the disease is discovered it is too late—and even with treatment the mortality rate is 50 to 80 per cent. 

“Cricket is definitely one of the lucky ones. Without treatment most infected cats will die, and even with treatment more than half may not make it,” Dr Cunliffe said.

FPV is highly contagious and is spread through the faeces of infected cats. It can potentially survive in the outside environment for years. 

Cats do not need to have direct contact to spread the virus. It can be transferred from anything that has come in contact with contaminated faeces including shoes, clothing or other objects, such as toys.

Symptoms include loss of appetite, severe lethargy and weakness, which may then develop into vomiting, bloody diarrhoea and dehydration. Severely affected animals will go into shock from dehydration and sepsis, often resulting in sudden death. 

The FPV-infected cats seen at Lort Smith Animal Hospital have usually been unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated. Dr Cunliffe is urging cat owners to check their pet’s medical history to ensure felines are up to date. 

“Kittens can be vaccinated from six weeks of age and depending on the vaccine used, they then need two boosters a month apart, followed by boosters as part of their usual vaccination routine.”

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