Feline infectious enteritis (FIE) is a disease caused by infection with feline parvovirus (FPV), also known as feline panleukopenia virus.
Sometimes people refer to it as the panleukopenia virus as one the main results of being infected is the development of a low white blood cell count. A low white blood cell count is the definition of panleukopenia.
Parvoviruses are particularly dangerous because they are very resistant to disinfectants that are formed particularly for viruses. They can also survive for a long time (years) in the environment in which they have been spread.
Where does it come from and how is it spread?
Feline parvovirus is contracted and spread by faecal to oral contact. It is also spread induirectly through contaminated areas, surfaces and flooring. This is why you always ensure that your Vet wipes the table and dries it before placing any of your property on the table. Keep your carriers on your knee at all times. Avoid placing it on the floor. Cats infected with FPV can shed the virus for at least six weeks following infection.
In kittens over 4 weeks old and in adult cats, the virus causes a very severe gastroenteritis, following an incubation period of five to nine days. Most affected cats demostrate symptoms shortly after contracting an infection. Sypmtoms are chronic (explosive) diarhoea, vomiting and they can die very quickly. Cats can also become depressed, have a low appetite and will normally have a fever as their bodies try to fight the infection. Ths virus is very dangerous as it travels through the blood to the bone marrow and lymph glands. Cats with the virus normally have a lower appetite due to the affect on the lining of the intestine. There is also a chance that an infected cat will die before being diagnosed.
Queens with Parvovirus
Unfortunately it is known that some breeders queens have been infected with the virus. The virus can spread to the unborn kittens where it can interfere with the developing brain. Kittens may then be born with a condition known as cerebellar hypoplasia (lack of development of the cerebellum, a part of the brain needed for fine coordination of movement).Kittens are usually unnoticably affected until they are moving and walking around - where lack of co-ordination is visible.. This may also happen in very young kittens (less than 4 weeks of age) infected with FPV as the cerebellum is still developing at that age.
So how do I treat it?
No specific treatment is available for FPV infection and it is vital that any suspected cases are nursed in isolation as this is a highly contagious disease. Protective clothing must be worn and hands washed thoroughly after handling any cat or kitten suspected of having the disease. Where possible, one or two people who do not handle any other cats should be assigned as nurses.
Affected cats often die from dehydration and massive secondary infection, so aggressive support with intravenous fluids and broad spectrum antibiotics are crucial, but even with this, a high proportion of affected cats may die. Anti-emetic drugs may be useful to help stop vomiting, and feeding the cat small meals as soon as the vomiting has resolved is also important. Good veterinary and nursing care is vital to help cats, especially young kittens, recover from the disease. Interferons are chemicals made in the body that can exert an antiviral effect. Recombinant feline interferon omega (or human interferon products) might be of some help in the treatment of severe cases. Feline interferon has been shown to be useful in managing dogs with parvovirus infection.
You can prevent your vcat contracting FPV by vaccinating them annually. All vaccinations are very effective and will even protect your indoor-only cats who should be vaccinated since transmission can be from clothes etc. Modified live vaccines should not be used in pregnant queens or cats that are immunosuppressed and, in such cases, inactivated (killed) vaccines are recommended. For futher information see our FAQ page.
Control of the spread of FPV relies on both vaccination and good disinfection practice and management of infection control (with appropriate disinfectants) and use of quarantine or isolation. When faced with an outbreak of FPV in a colony of cats, vaccinating all the cats will help, and in some countries anti-FPV serum is available that may be given to susceptible cats and kittens to help protect them by providing antibodies against the virus.