Cat health: Feline enteritis explained

Posted by Nurse Whiskers. April 22nd 2014.

Many of us view our pets as part of the family and it is for this reason that we strive to keep on top of their health needs. On occasions when the worst does happen and our dogs or cats become ill, it’s important that we understand the condition and what action to take.

As part of our series on cat health, we look at feline enteritis and what it could mean for you and your moggy.

Grey Tabby Cat

What is feline enteritis?

Feline enteritis, or feline infections enteritis, is a severe infection of the gut which occurs in cats. It is often fatal and is highly contagious – making it a particular threat for households with more than one cat.

The infection is caused by the feline parvovirus (FPV) which is also known as the feline panleucopaenia virus. Death rates from the disease are high and typically the condition can escalate to a life-threatening stage in as little as 12 hours from the first sign of illness. In adult cats and kittens over 4 weeks, it causes severe dehydration, vomiting and diarrhoea but in younger kittens the effects are even more devastating. The virus can affect the developing brain of kittens under 4 weeks old and leave them heavily uncoordinated. This also applies to kittens which are yet to be born if their pregnant mother is infected. Although the kittens will look normal at birth, they will be very uncoordinated due to brain damage.

Can feline enteritis be treated?

Unfortunately, there is no specific course of treatment for this infection and often the symptoms escalate so quickly that little can be done. Should your cat suffer from feline enteritis, it is vital that you seek veterinary treatment immediately. Antibiotics, anti-vomiting drugs and fluids may be administered to try and beat the virus but it is not guaranteed to work.

The best way to treat the infection is through preventative measures. A vaccination against the infection is available and is one of the core vaccinations administered to cats. The vaccination is highly effective and is suitable for all types of cats – including indoor cats – and leaves unvaccinated kittens the most at risk.

Fluffy ginger cat

How do I know if my cat has feline enteritis?

There are a few clinical signs that your cat may have feline enteritis. Due to the quick development of the condition, it is important that you seek veterinary treatment immediately if you spot any of the following:

  • Severe and sudden onset of gastroenteritis
  • Vomit or diarrhoea where blood is present
  • Lethargy in kittens and cats over 3-4 weeks old
  •  Sudden loss of appetite/stopped eating
  • High fever
  • Dehydration

How can I stop feline enteritis spreading to my cat?

As mentioned, feline enteritis is highly contagious. This means that you need to do everything you can to protect your cats and stop it from spreading. Having kittens vaccinated is the most obvious step but there are other things you can do too.

The main way in which the virus is spread is through ingestion of faeces. An infected cat’s faeces can still spread the virus six weeks after they contracted the infection and it can also be passed through dog faeces.

Poorly cleaned floors, dirty food dishes, brushes, combs, toys and beddings can also be responsible for spreading the virus – as can dirty hands or clothes. Good cleaning practices around the home can are therefore a vital form of protection. Appropriate disinfectants should be used when cleaning and any outbreaks of infection should result in isolated for the infected cat.


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