What is Feline Distemper (Feline Panleukopenia)?
Feline Panleukopenia is a serious infectious disease. It is relatively common in unvaccinated cats and is often fatal, especially for young kittens. The feline Panleukopenia virus, also known as FPV, is easily spread by contact with a diseased animal or its secretions.
Panleukopenia is often referred to as feline distemper because it produces symptoms similar to those displayed in dogs with distemper. These two diseases are different, however, and are not caused by the same virus.
Who’s at Risk?
Any cat or kitten that has not been vaccinated against feline Panleukopenia is at risk. This is a hardy virus that can lurk in carpets and upholstery for years.
Cats can be infected by litter boxes, food bowls and even toys and clothes. Therefore, introducing an unvaccinated cat to a surroundings previously inhabited by a sick cat, puts her at great risk.
Kittens are especially susceptible to feline distemper because their immune systems are often underdeveloped and cannot fight off the infection. In fact, kittens can be infected in utero or during birth. Mortality rates for this form of neonatal Panleukopenia are extremely high. Survivors of the infection may suffer cerebellar damage.
Symptoms of Feline Panleukopenia
Symptoms of feline distemper usually show up within a week and a half of exposure to the virus. Sick cats often run a high fever, accompanied by apathy and loss of appetite. Vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain may also be present.
Treatment of Feline Panleukopenia
If you suspect that your cat may have feline Panleukopenia, get her to the vet immediately. Early detection and treatment is crucial for the cat survival and recovery.
Your vet will probably perform a blood test and begin immediate life supportive measures, including intravenous fluids, antibiotics and sometimes even blood transfusions.
Prevention of Feline Panleukopenia
The best prevention for feline Panleukopenia is by vaccinating all cats and kittens. This is one of the routine vaccines every kitten should get. Annual boosters are required to keep the body’s defenses active.
Remember that kittens need some time to fully acquire the immunization. So even if your kitten has been given her shots, avoid exposure to other cats (other than her litter mates) until the age of four months.
Breeders should make sure that breeding queens are vaccinated before mating. This will allow the newborn kittens some immunity, provided they have nursed on their mother’s first milk (the colostrum).
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