Feline parvovirus/panleucopenia (FPV)

Isolated cat

Overview

  • Feline parvovirus/panleucopenia/infectious enteritis (FPV) is a serious disease. It’s caused by a virus that spreads easily from cat to cat.
  • FPV is a very serious illness, especially in kittens. Sadly, it often causes death.
  • Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea but kittens are often so badly affected that they die before symptoms appear.
  • There is no specific cure for FPV – your vet will support your cat with fluids and medicines while their body tries to fight the infection.
  • If kittens are infected in the womb they can be born with brain damage.
  • Vaccinate to protect from FPV.

What causes panleucopenia/FPV?

Feline Parvovirus is also called ‘FPV’, ‘Feline Panleucopenia’ and ‘Feline Infectious Enteritis’. It’s a disease caused by a nasty virus, similar to parvovirus in dogs (FPV does not spread to dogs or humans).

Your cat can catch FPV from an infected cat or pick it up anywhere an infected cat has been. FPV often affects kittens more seriously than adult cats. If a pregnant cat catches FPV, her kittens may be born with brain damage (wobbly kitten syndrome).

FPV damages the gut lining (causing vomiting and diarrhoea), bone marrow (damaging the immune system) and sometimes attacks the heart muscle. Infected cats quickly become poorly and sadly, often die.

When to contact your vet

Contact your vet urgently if your cat suddenly becomes poorly, especially if they aren’t vaccinated.

You know your cat best. If they don’t have the symptoms listed above but you are still concerned it’s always best to contact your vet.

Photo of cat diarrhoea

Diarrhoea (containing blood) from a cat with FPV

Ongoing care and outlook

If your cat recovers and returns home, you will need to nurse them until they are fully fit again.

Sadly, very young kittens are likely to die from FPV virus. Older cats have a slightly better chance of surviving, but the condition is still very serious. If your cat manages to survive FPV and makes a full recovery, they should return to living a normal life.

Kittens that suffer brain damage in the womb during infection have permanent problems with their walking and coordination (wobbly kitten syndrome), but can often adapt to live a relatively normal (slightly clumsy) life.

Prevention

Fortunately, there is a vaccine available to protect your cat from FPV. Make sure your cat is vaccinated when they are a kitten and give them boosters as often as your vet recommends. FPV vaccine is very effective and has resulted in the disease becoming quite rare in the UK.

Don’t let your kitten go outside or mix with other cats until they have been vaccinated – viruses from an infected cat can survive for several months in the environment and remain a threat to your kitten.

If your vet thinks your cat has FPV, don’t let them mix with other cats until they are 100% fit again.

Cat getting vaccinated

Vaccinate and give regular boosters against FPV

Cost

Treatment for a poorly cat can become very expensive. Consider insuring your cat as soon as you get them, before any signs of illness start. This will ensure you have all the support you need to care for them.

It’s also very important to speak openly to your vet about your finances, the cost of treatment, as well as what you think is right for your cat. There are often several treatment options so if one doesn’t work for you and your pet then the vet may be able to offer another.

Published: June 2019

PetWise Pet Health Hub – brought to you thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery 

Written by vets and vet nurses

Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst