Cat Diseases - Feline Distemper (Feline Panleukopenia)

Feline Distemper
  • Feline distemper, also known as feline panleukopenia or infectious feline enteritis, is a highly contagious and potentially fatal viral disease that can affect cats.
  • Feline panleukopenia is a parvovirus very similar in structure to canine parvovirus.
  • The virus can be spread by direct contact with infected cats but also indirectly by contact with items contaminated with the virus.
  • The virus is very common, survives a long time in the environment, and is resistant to many disinfectants, so virtually all cats will be exposed to this virus at some point.
  • This virus affects the rapidly dividing blood cells in the body, primarily the cells in the intestinal tract, bone marrow, and in the stem cells of the developing fetus. Because the blood cells are under attack, this virus can lead to an anemic condition, and it can open the body to infections from other illnesses viral or bacterial.
  • Vaccination greatly reduces the risk of disease.
  • Young kittens, pregnant cats and immune compromised cats are at highest risk for developing severe disease symptoms.
Symptoms: panleuk or feline distemper
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea/bloody diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • High fever
  • Anemia
  • Depression
  • Complete loss of interest in food
  • Some cats may hide themselves for a day or two
  • Hanging head over water bowl or food dish but does not drink or eat
  • Feet tucked under body for long periods
  • Chin resting on floor for long periods
  • Neurological symptoms in those cats in which virus attacks brain (e.g., lack of coordination)
  • Vaccination is the most important tool in the prevention of this disease.
  • Keep kittens (and cats) indoors, and away from other unvaccinated cats.
  • Take precautions and talk to your vet before introducing any new kittens or unvaccinated cats into your home.
  • The environment of cats with panleukopenia should be considered contaminated with the virus. A 1:32 dilution of household bleach should be used to disinfect floors, dishes, litter boxes, cages, and other items.
  • The treatment for panleukopenia is basically supportive care.
  • Hospitalization is usually required and fluids are given intravenously or subcutaneously to correct the dehydration.
  • Blood transfusions may be given to severely affected cats.
  • Medications would be given to stop the vomiting.
  • Antibiotics may be given to protect the sick cat from developing a bacterial infection.
  • If the cat is not vomiting vitamin B, valium, or oxazepam may be used to help to stimulate appetite.
  • Good nursing care is also essential.