Decades ago, feline parvovirus (also known as cat plague and panleukopenia) ravaged cat populations, causing awful symptoms and killing at least half of those it infected, even with the best treatment. Then along came a vaccine, and the disease largely disappeared in pet populations. Now it is cropping up again in Australia. Here’s what you need to know.
Feline Parvo is nasty stuff. It wipes out bone marrow and causes bloody diarrhea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, and death in at least half of all cases. Treatment is expensive and intense and involves fluids, medication, anti-virals, opioids and antibiotics. It can even require blood transfusions. Still, many animals die despite treatment.
Cats can catch the virus from fecal contact – in litter boxes, from cat-to-cat contact and even on a human’s shoes after being outside. Animal shelters in Melbourne and Sydney recently reported an outbreak of the cat plague in unvaccinated animals. Researchers suspect that wild cats have spread the disease to pet animals. The best way to keep the disease at bay is widespread vaccination – current vaccines have an effective rate of 99%.
In Australia, non-profit groups work to help low-income individuals vaccinate their pets and to catch and vaccinate wild felines. Even still, it is important that as many pets as possible are vaccinated to protect herd immunity. When herd immunity falls below 70%, diseases like feline parvo can gain a foothold.