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What is Intestinal Viral Infection?

Rotavirus, the most common intestinal viral infection in cats, has the ability to spread between animals and humans. Cats that are suspected of having an intestinal viral infection should be seen by a veterinarian promptly and should be kept away from other animals, infants, young children, and people with compromised immune systems or immunodeficiency disorders. It is recommended that all cats are properly vaccinated and kept in clean environments to minimize the chance of contracting an intestinal viral infection as it is far easier to prevent a viral infection than it is to treat one.

Intestinal viral infection in cats commonly causes inflammation of the intestinal lining, stomach upset, and diarrhea. If treated promptly, most cats will fully recover from the infection. In some cases, diarrhea may be severe enough to cause life-threatening dehydration. If left untreated, certain virus strains can develop into feline infectious peritonitis, which may be fatal.

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Intestinal Viral Infection Average Cost

From 387 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$900

Symptoms of Intestinal Viral Infection in Cats

Intestinal viral infections are primarily characterized by the presence of mild to severe diarrhea that is often watery and may be green or otherwise discolored. Older cats that have been infected may not display any visible symptoms. In young kittens, common symptoms may include:

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Unwillingness to eat
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Fever 
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Watering eyes
  • Nasal discharge

Types

There are several viruses that are linked intestinal infections in cats. A few of the most common are:

  • Rotavirus
  • Astrovirus
  • Parvovirus
  • Coronavirus 
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Causes of Intestinal Viral Infection in Cats

Intestinal viral infections are highly contagious and are usually spread through contact with infected feces or saliva. The virus may be ingested or inhaled and in rare cases transmission can occur through contact with contaminated litter boxes, food dishes, bedding, or grooming equipment. Depending on the type of virus, it may remain active on surfaces for long periods of time. Humans may spread the infection between cats by petting multiple cats without disinfecting hands in between. Cats can also spread it to one another through mutual grooming or bites that occur as the result of fighting. In some cases, the virus can spread from an infected mother to unborn kittens. 

Intestinal viruses tend to spread in areas that have a high concentration of cats such as shelters, catteries, and feral colonies. The condition can occur in cats of any age, but it is more commonly found in young cats and kittens, cats with a weakened immune system, or those living in a highly stressful environment. 

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Diagnosis of Intestinal Viral Infection in Cats

After reviewing the cat’s medical records and discussing the onset of symptoms, the treating veterinarian will attempt to rule out other possible causes of gastrointestinal upset. These other causes may include the presence of parasites, fungal infection, toxin exposure, dietary allergies, or feline leukemia (FeLV). Standard lab tests including a complete blood count (CBC), blood profile, and electrolyte panel will be ordered to assess the cat’s overall health. Tissue biopsy and fecal examinations are likely to be ordered and the intestines will be examined. Test results will indicate whether the infection is viral or bacterial and the cat’s level of dehydration. 

A physical exam will be performed, with close attention paid to the condition of the mouth and abdomen. A stethoscope will be used to listen for abnormal abdominal sounds and a visual diagnosis may be made using X-rays, ultrasound, and/or endoscopy.

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Treatment of Intestinal Viral Infection in Cats

There are no antiviral medications available to treat intestinal viral infections. Symptom control is therefore the primary objective. If the cat is suffering from dehydration or electrolyte imbalance this will need to be addressed promptly. The administration of intravenous fluids may be necessary until the cat has stabilized. Diarrhea, upset stomach, and vomiting may be controlled with the use of prescription medications. The vet may recommend temporarily changing the cat’s diet to high-protein foods that are bland and easily digestible in order to calm the stomach and ease discomfort. Antibiotics are not useful in treating viral infections and are unlikely to be prescribed. 

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Recovery of Intestinal Viral Infection in Cats

Follow-up visits to the vet will be needed to ensure that the infection has been cured and, with proper treatment, a full recovery is expected. 

Depending on the type of virus, it is possible that after recovery the cat may continue to be a carrier and will have the ability to spread the infection to other cats. Sufficient litter boxes should be provided and they should be cleaned daily and disinfected at least once a week to avoid contamination. Keeping cats separated into small groups of three to four can also help to minimize the likelihood of transmission.

When handling fecal matter, owners will need to take precautions to avoid transmission of the infection to family members. Latex gloves should be worn while cleaning up after the cat and the animal’s living area will need to be thoroughly disinfected on a regular basis. 

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Intestinal Viral Infection Average Cost

From 387 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$900

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Intestinal Viral Infection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Jack

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Persian

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2 Months

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Mild severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Not Eating Weight Loss
Not Eating

My male kitten 2 months old is not eating anything he is drinking water and his weight is getting loss what should i do? My vet says that he have intestine infection

Sept. 15, 2018

Jack's Owner

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Weevee

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Shorthair

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18 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

White Blood Cell
Weight Loss

I have an 18 year old female cat? Presenting with extreme weight loss in about 6 week period, went from 9lbs to 6lbs, still eating and drinking and acting totally normal, except for diarrhea and straining when trying to deficate. We changed her food to fresh food 6 weeks ago, she didn’t like it refused to eat and we started noticing vomit and diarrhea in the house, we changed her back to her normal food after about a month, she had been back on her old food, fancy feast wet cans, for about 2 weeks. Took her to the vet, they did blood work, everything normal except wbc high, they did an x ray and said they couldn’t see her bowels clearly and thought her abdomen was full of fluid, however when they tried to aspirate fluid there was none. They now recommend an ultrasound to try and see what is going on in her abdomen. My gut is telling me she has a parasite or bacterial infection or inflamed bowels from the food changes. No fever. She also has something else we noticed in the last few weeks it sounds like her teeth are grinding together when she eats on one side, vet checked her teeth said it looks fine, she isn’t crying in pain or not eating from it, just thought it was weird. Any advice would be appreciated, she is now on Clav-amox for two days, we may try to take her somewhere and get a second opinion.

June 13, 2018

Weevee's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

It is hard to tell what might be going on with Weevee without seeing her, but I think the ultrasound may be a good idea. At her age, things can start to happen, and it would seem strange to me that the food change would affect her that dramatically. If her GI tract wasn't clearly visible on the x-rays, there may be more going on, and an ultrasound gives more information. I hope that she is okay.

June 13, 2018

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Intestinal Viral Infection Average Cost

From 387 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$900

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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