Parvo, short for parvovirus, is a highly contagious disease that affects dogs, coyotes, foxes, wolves and other canines. However, puppies below four months are the most susceptible to the virus. Since it is contagious, it worries pet owners, including those who own cat. Can cats get parvo from dogs?
Before I answer your question, let’s first get to know the virus itself; the causes, symptoms, treatment, prevention, and more.
What Causes Parvovirus?
Parvovirus is a virus that causes a highly contagious disease among dogs. It can present itself in dogs in two forms: intestinal and cardiac. However, the intestinal form is the more common one.
Other strains of the virus that affect other animals like cats, and also humans. In fact, the feline parvovirus existed before the strain of virus that affects dogs. When parvovirus started infecting dogs, there were efforts to control it by making vaccinations from feline parvovirus.
Symptoms of Parvovirus
The intestinal form of the illness, also known as enteritis, presents bloody diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and fever. It may also affect the dog’s ability to absorb nutrients and might cause severe weight loss and lethargy.
The less common form of the disease, which is the cardiac form, causes myocarditis. Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart. Dogs who have parvovirus may also appear leukopenic, which means their white blood cells are too low.
Transmission of Parvovirus
The main way they can get exposure to the virus is through contact with an infected dog’s feces. However, the virus can still spread by hands, shoes, clothing, beddings, and other objects.
The incubation period (which is the time between the exposure to the virus and the first manifestation of symptoms), is four to six days. This makes it difficult, especially during dog adoption. Since it doesn’t appear right away, the dog could appear normal at the time of adoption, only to fall ill a few days later in their new home.
To diagnose parvovirus, a vet may perform a physical examination, biochemical tests, urinalysis, a complete blood count and abdominal ultrasounds.
Can Cats Get Parvo From Dogs?
To answer the question, yes. However, it’s very unlikely for a cat to get parvovirus from a dog. Cats are more at risk for their strains of the virus, which is called Feline Panleukopenia virus. It causes feline distemper, which is highly contagious among cats.
Since the parvovirus can cause illness in cats, it’s essential to separate them from dogs in shelters. Also, cats can act as a reservoir of the virus, causing further spread of the disease in dogs.
Treatment of Parvovirus
No specific drug will kill parvovirus in dogs, so the treatment looks towards supportive therapy. You need to address the disease and intervene right away for a higher chance of survival, especially in puppies.
- You will need to replace the fluids lost because of diarrhea and vomiting. While oral administration helps, you may still need to take your dog to the vet where it can get an intravenous administration of fluids. IV fluids are more effective, and it is also ideal for severe cases and puppies.
- Your dog may also need a blood transfusion, especially if it is late and severe.
- Antibiotics obviously do not work against viruses. However, they are normally given to a dog to treat or prevent secondary bacterial infections caused by the parvovirus.
- Antiemetics are drugs that slow vomiting.
- Since your dog is most likely vomiting a lot, unable to hold food in or too lethargic to eat, you may need to feed it another way. You can do tube feeding or parenteral nutrition (giving of nutrients intravenously).
Prevention of Parvovirus
Prevention is always better than cure in the case of parvovirus.
- Vaccinate your puppies to protect them from the parvovirus. Make sure the vaccine is properly stored, given at the right time with the right intervals, in the right doses. This is one of the first things you must do after getting a puppy. Pay the vet a visit and get the necessary vaccines!
- For adult dogs, you can update their vaccination. You can measure a dog’s level of protection against parvovirus through titer tests. For more information, ask your veterinarian.
- It’s hard to control the environment which may contain the virus. However, you can still lower the risk of your puppy or dog getting parvo. You can do this by not letting your dog wander off without you. This prevents them from smelling, tasting or touching something you don’t want them to.
- Since the virus can live for long periods of time in the environment, it’s important to disinfect. If you suspect contamination in an area or on an object, disinfect it with bleach. This includes your shoes (especially the soles), carpets, dog toys, dog bowls, etc.
- Dispose of your dog’s waste properly and promptly to avoid the potential spread of the virus to other dogs.
- Don’t let your dog have contact with a stray cat or dog, especially if you have suspicions about their health.
Parvovirus is a virus that affects mainly dogs. While it is unlikely, it is still possible for cats to get parvo from dogs. Parvovirus has many strains, including Feline Panleukopenia virus, which is more common among cats.
Like many contagious and infectious disease, prevention is very important. Vaccination is recommended for all puppies, while adult dogs can get a booster shot.
Do you have questions or other concerns about parvo? If you do, feel free to comment them below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.