Animal Welfare

Rise in Cases of Deadly Virus in Kittens

Lort Smith Animal Hospital is reporting a significant spike in cases of the deadly feline parvovirus (FPV). Head of Hospital, Dr David Cunliffe, is urging cat owners to ensure kittens are properly vaccinated.

“We have seen 10 cases of feline parvovirus over the past two months. In 2019 we only saw a few cases across the entire year. This current trend is worrying,” a concerned Dr Cunliffe says.

FPV, also known as panleukopenia (pan-loo-ko-peeneea), attacks the cells that line the small intestine and causes severe immunosuppression. It is related to the deadly canine parvovirus.

Cricket 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 when treatment more than half may not make it,” warns Dr Cunliffe.

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,” adds Dr Cunliffe.

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.

Dr Cunliffe says that apart from the uncertain outcome, treatment for FPV is expensive due to the need for intensive care and isolation required during a lengthy hospital stay.

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”.

Current COVID-19 restrictions requires Lort Smith to prioritise the most vulnerable. Kittens under six months are able to receive vaccinations and boosters. However, adult cats will have to wait for restrictions to lift. Lort Smith is open every day of the year and continues to offer emergency and essential care to animals.