What Are the Symptoms of Cat Parvo?

Feline parvovirus, sometimes called feline panleukopenia or feline distemper, is a potentially life-threatening illness. When your cat becomes infected with feline parvo, initially he might seem depressed. He might have less energy or hide for long periods. His appetite likely decreases, too. As the illness progresses, his coat might become scraggly and he could lose weight, especially if he's frequently throwing up or having diarrhea. Other symptoms include resting his chin flat on the floor or tucking his feet underneath himself for extended periods.

Sleeping white cat
A white cat sleeping on a wooden floor.
credit: icyyoke/iStock/Getty Images

Symptoms Your Vet Sees

Your vet checks for an abnormal white blood cell count, which is how the illness is diagnosed. He also looks for iron-deficiency anemia, a condition that affects your kitty's red blood cells and oxygen transportation. The vet performs neurological examination on your cat, where he checks the pupils and movements to look for poor coordination or tremors. Any neurological abnormalities indicate the virus might be attacking your poor friend's brain. Fever, dehydration, enlarged lymph nodes and abdominal pain are other symptoms of feline parvo.

Virus Transmission

While the disease is a type of parvovirus, it's different than the strain that affects dogs -- it only spreads between cats and a few other animals such as ferrets and raccoons. It's most often spread through bodily fluids or fleas carrying infected blood. However, if you come into contact with an infected kitty, you can transmit the illness to your feline, although you won't get sick.