Panleuk, Parvo and Tamiflu

Romeo died 5 days after this photo
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Romeo died 5 days after this photo

Today I want to talk about Panleuk (Feline Panleukopenia), Parvo (Parvovirus) and Tamiflu (Oseltamivir Phosphate) – please also read the update at the base of the page (Michael).

There are few diseases in the animal world that strike heartbreak and terror into animal lovers as much as panleuk and parvo. Today’s column will be off the beaten path as I will be addressing both cat and dog owners. The two diseases are so alike they are 98% identical, differing in only 2 amino acids. Their symptoms and treatment must be handled quickly or the rate of death exceeds 90%.

Since quite a few of us love both cats and dogs, I hope this article will prove educational without going over the head of those with average intelligence. Research articles tend to do that. And I hope the cat only people will forgive me.

Include me in that group of average intelligence. I’ve said “oh my aching head” at least a dozen times while doing the preliminary research for this article.  I’ll list lots of references as “homework” as there is way too much to get into in one article. 

My primary research into panleuk and parvo is the use of Tamiflu (a neuraminidase inhibitor) to save the life of a pet stricken with this disease that can claim a life only hours after symptoms appear. However, a dog can’t infect a cat and a cat can’t infect a dog.

I’ve never used Tamiflu, which is commonly prescribed for influenza. Not only was it too expensive without insurance, but it only cut the duration of symptoms in humans by one and a half days and the side effects read too much like the flu to even bother with it.  

To save a pet, I would do this. No question about it after researching this article.

One source I read on using Tamiflu for cats and dogs stated the drug should be started before symptoms appear. If an animal has been exposed, begin treatment with the drug immediately. Another article said not to start the drug unless an animal has tested positive using a feline or canine snap parvo test. Personally, if I knew a pet had been exposed, I’d start treatment immediately. Once the disease digs in the Tamiflu won’t help.

I never realized until I began this research just how painful these illnesses are to an animal. When the GI (gastrointestinal) tract is being destroyed and your pet is vomiting and has diarrhea (sometimes bloody), add on lethargy and dehydration and electrolyte imbalances and then sepsis takes over and poisons the blood and kills quickly. Blood and protein leak into the intestines and cause anemia and loss of protein and endotoxins get into the bloodstream causing endotoxemia.  There’s really no way this could NOT be painful.

I can’t stress this enough.. Get the vaccines as a preventive. And should your pet appear ill, do not wait until morning to see if your pet feels better before making a vet visit. Your dog or cat could die before morning.  I’ve learned this the hard way.

Parvo only appeared in the l970’s and it was quickly discovered it was a mutation of the panleuk virus in cats.  Puppies died when the virus infected the rapidly dividing cells of the heart. Vets began using the cat vaccine for panleuk but had limited success due to CPV maternal antibiodies. The disease was more stubborn to fight in dogs than in cats with the vaccine available at the time. We’re fortunate that now dogs have their own parvo vaccine.

There are also two forms of the parvo, and although I haven’t proven this theory in cats as I write this article. I believe this may also be correct in them also with the panleuk since there is the 98% identical markers in the disease..

This is why I stayed so confused when my kittens were sick and dying. There is the intestinal form which causes sepsis. There is also a cardiac form (of parvo) that affects the heart muscle and causes breathing difficulty and mimics the symptoms we see in adults with heart failure. Can cats get the cardiac form? Something tells me they can.

The cardiac form is more likely to be passed on from mother to babies. The mother can build a natural immunity and shake off the disease, sometimes without symptoms. That’s what I believe my Marley did. You should have seen the black diarrhea mess the vet cut away from Marley’s anal area. My vet was fairly certain she had been infected with panleuk and recovered. She was fortunate to survive this. Marley lived and all her her Whineybutt babies save one died. Midnight is slowly recovering and still grieving the loss of his brothers and sisters.

This is the link (Wiki article) that has gotten me so excited. So much information packed into one article. Since puppies can get the cardiac parvo, has anyone done any research into whether kittens can get the cardiac form also? This fits to a tee how my kittens died

The cardiac form is often the form that kills a family pet overnight with no symptoms. All you may notice is a little difficulty breathing and lethargy and by morning your pet is dead.

Can anyone out there back me up that this occurs in felines as well as canines since the similarity of the diseases is so close to 100%? The research is saying only young puppies usually get the cardiac form.

Now for more information on how the Tamiflu works to stop parvo and panleuk. These findings aren’t from an actual scientific study; only from vets and shelters who began experimenting in their own practices to stop the growth of neuraminidase.  

It isn’t fully understood whether parvo and panleuk need neuraminidase to cause the bacteria to kill our pets. But Tamiflu can stop whatever it is in its tracks. Here’s the link to a very complicated article I’d suggest you study as it explains how the disease functions. The truth might surprise you. There is hope if you act quickly. I would like to warn this information is very confusing. Here is a link from a vet who uses Tamiflu to treat feline distemper.

Tamiflu is not a substitute for conventional treatment.  IV,’s, dehydration fluids such as Pedialyte and antibiotics are still needed. A vitamin B-12 shot may be needed to help with the anemia. 

The main problem in the past was cost. Only rich people could afford to save their sick pets. When this research article was written back in 2008 they figured the cost at around $40 per dog. 

Of course the weight difference in dogs and cats must be taken into consideration. I found this excellent article written by someone who pulled her kitten through panleuk and she kept a diary including dosage amounts, side effects, etc.

Tamiflu requires a prescription and doesn’t have a long shelf life. To use it on a pet and it’s purchased through a pharmacy, please use a compounding pharmacy. These aren’t as difficult to find as you might think. Most medicine we use today began as a compounded drug. A veterinarian can also mix Tamiflu as an oral suspension and advise dosage instructions.

This is HUGE, readers. I don’t have any idea how many shelters and vet practices know about this. None of my vets ever even mentioned Tamiflu as a treatment. If we must educate our vets to these new treatments, then we need to do that. We are an animals only voice when it’s sick!

When the cost to treat an exposed cat or dog is less than the cost to euthanize, this could become standard practice at shelters.  It would save thousands of lives each year. Not only those with the disease, but the stress caused to shelter workers who must euthanize cats who have done nothing wrong except be in the room with a sick cat.

In the private sector it would mean kittens and puppies could be treated low cost at home if good care by a family member was available.  After a vet visit first since this is very complicated and your pets life depends on it.

Yes, I realize Tamiflu has it’s down side like every other drug out there. But when you’re looking at a survival rate at less than 10%, you may have to take the risk and use the drug.

Veterinarians, are any of you using Tamiflu in your practice to treat parvo and panluek. Do any of you (physicians or not) have any more links we might find helpful? And the question I’d REALLY love to know the answer to. How many vets out thee have never even heard of using Tamiflu?

My greatest fear of these diseases in dealing with vets who either don’t know of the excellent results achieved by the drug or are too “old school” to try something new. Not even ONCE did I hear the word Tamiflu used as a treatment option. Things could have ended a lot differently if I had.

Anything I’ve missed? Comments and especially experience in working with Tamiflu would be most helpful.


Update: this is more than 10 years later (Oct 2020) as the date on the article is wrong. It was written before 2012. Anyway, I thought I’d update it with a successful treatment for panleuk by Jane K Rice which you can read in it is entirety by clicking on this link. It incorporates tamiflu. Here is the outline (I have decided that I can publish it here because there is a freed download of the page in question and therefore it is publishable under a creative commons license:

Treatment outline

1) Identify FPV with parvo test or WBC count and symptoms. Parvo test any severely sick or deceased kitten or cat with unknown sudden cause of death. Isolate sick cats.

2) Start Neupogen, and give on days 1, 2, and 3 (optional), skip a day and resume on days 4 or 5.

3) Start two broad spectrum antibiotics, Baytril and penicillin G, typically.

4) If kitten is under about 2 lbs, start Tamiflu. (Or if a lot of bloody stool at any age); as alternative, start metronidazole if feline is over about 3 months old.

5) Start Vitamin B12 or highly diluted Vitamin B-complex.

6) Give fluids, anti-vomit meds, and feed small amounts of A/D Hills diet.

7) Keep track of temperature throughout. Keep at or below 103.5 F, but a modest elevated temperature is good.

8) Continue with supportive therapy and antibiotics for full course of treatment. (Typically 7 days, or 3 days past all symptom resolution, but at least a minimum of 5 days)

9) Cat will “break though” pretty suddenly and just get up and be very hungry and want to eat and drink, usually 3-5 days after symptoms appear.

10) Closely watch and slowly remove supportive therapies as cat is able to do for him/herself. Feed often during this time period.

11) Keep cat isolated for 2.5 to 3 weeks after recovery, bathe coat, and decontaminate


13 thoughts on “Panleuk, Parvo and Tamiflu”

  1. Five years ago our rescue was hit with a very virulent strain of Calicivirus. We had just pulled some cats and kittens from a colony that all appeared healthy a few days before, when suddenly a cat from the colony got sick. Within a few hours, we had a number of cats sick. In a little over 48 hours we lost 8 cats, including a litter of four kittens. My vet at the time was at his wit’s end as to what to do, he held each kitten with me as they passed. I did some online research and found information about Tamiflu – the info I found at the time was mix 1 75 mg cap with 25 cc’s of water and give 1 cc per 5 lbs of body weight. After we started treating the rest of our cats, we didn’t lose another one. But it wasn’t just the Tamiflu. You have to bleach everything that can be bleached that has come in contact with the animal, whether it is Parvo, PanLeuk or Calici. You need to order lobster aprons from Amazon and change them between each cat you treat. You need to keep bleach buckets (1 cup bleach to 2 gallons of water) and every time you touch an infected animal, you have to wash your hands and then dip them in the bleach water. All eating and drinking dishes have to be bleached. These viruses can live on surfaces for a very long time. Betedine makes a soap that you can get a prescription for from your vet and buy online or at some pharmacies that you can use in place of bleach water for hands and some surfaces, but it does stain clothing. Then again, so does bleach. I hope this helps someone. I hate these viruses.

    Also, for those wondering why vets don’t recommend this drug, it is very simple – it is not approved for use in animals by the FDA. So they legally can’t. But what my vet said when I asked him is “It can’t hurt at this point, if you have it and you know how to use it, if it were me, I would.”

    Disclosure: I am not a veterinarian. You should always talk to your vet about any treatment before starting it. Any advice I have given here is based upon my own experience but I do not recommend that anyone else follow my advice unless their veterinarian has been consulted.

  2. I wanted to give an update on my panleuk kittens. I lost the 2 younger one. They were already showing symptoms before starting the Tamiflu. Three 8 week old kittens started on Tamiflu before symptoms started are doing well and I do believe are going to recover. They did have mild to moderate symptoms. One was hospitalized with fever and mild vomiting but is coming home today. I do believe the Tamiflu saved them. Dosage was one 75 mg cap mixed with 3 cc of distilled water .01 cc per lb once a day for 7 days. This is the instructions given to me by a vet that only treats cats.

  3. Thank you for your replies. I did go ahead and give the dosage that the vet recominded. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

  4. Hi … I just found out that my foster kittens have panleuk. One has died and one is in the hospital. The other 3 are eating and playing but have diarrhea. I have tamiflu and want to start them on it but I’m being told so many directions on how to mix it. The vet said 3 ml of water to one 75 ml tablet .01 cc per pound others have said 15 ml of water to one tablet and .02 cc per pound.

    Thanks concerned foster mommy

    • Hi Cheri. One problem with Tamiflu for cats is that is not discussed in authoritative books such as I have. Therefore I can’t advise because as far as I can tell there no vet websites which discuss dosage. I have not used it myself so have no personal experience.

      I’ll ask Elisa Black-Taylor who wrote the article to see if she can advise. If in doubt, I’d always take the advice of your vet but what you might do is telephone another vet ans ask directly what the dosage is. You may get an immediate response which clarifies things for you.

      Your vet is advising a more concentrated treatment at 3mls of water per tablet compared to 15mls per tablet. Good luck.

      • I don’t know the dosage but I can tell you to try to keep the cats hydrated. We use KMR milk in a syringe. It’s pulled many a cat through.

        Hopefully the vet can tell you how much. I’d hate to guess and be accused of practicing medicine.

  5. Thanks for this write up with a link to Jane’s blog. There is not much info to be found on treating Panleuk with Tamiflu. I hope we are deciphering the dosage correctly.

    • Hopefully your vet can give you a dosage if you can’t figure out from the blog. I hope more vets are studying up on this and realize how important Tamiflu is in treating panleuk.

  6. I am a foster in Hillsborough County FL. and this year we have been hit very hard with Panleukopenia. My house was hit in April and I had nine fosters and tried to get Tamiflu without much success. I finally was able to get a script after four kittens died. Two kittens pulled through with the use of Tamiflu, Azirthomicyn, and Metronidizole and Tamiflu prevented the other three from becoming infected. Another foster had a kitten infected with Panleuk and treatment was begun as soon as the symptoms appeared and after 10 days the kitten began to return to normal. He also survived. I currently have three bottle babies that lost their mother to Panleuk and they are all on Tamiflu and so far so good. I am keeping my fingers crossed for them; but, I do feel they will remain healthy until vaccinations can be given. I am a firm believer in Tamiflu. The only draw back is you need to have access to it because time is not on the side of the cats.


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