Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Feline Panleukopenia

virusFeline Panleukopenia or Feline Distemper is a serious illness in cats that can be potentially fatal for young kittens as well as immunocompromised older individuals. Despite similarities in name, Feline Distemper is quite distinct from Canine Distemper and does not spread to dogs and humans. The illness is caused by a Parvovirus that is present everywhere in the environment and has been documented in many parts of the world, including United States. As such most cats are exposed to the pathogen to varying degrees. However, the disease only takes hold in cats with weakened immunity.

Most cat owners are unaware of Feline Panleukopenia since kittens are routinely immunized against it as part of the standard vaccination regimen. The disease thus appears in feral, abandoned and other stray felines that have not received adequate protection. Once the illness takes hold, it is deadly - killing up to nine out of every ten individuals. No cure exists apart from dietary support and loving care. If the cat is able to pull through the acute phase lasting the first week, it is likely to survive and develop complete future immunity against the illness.

Feline Panleukopenia is quite a contagious disease and spreads readily through bodily secretions and fecal route. Often numerous cats in shelters and other crowded settings catch the infection. The virus spreads through the body's lymphatic system upon entry and rapidly enters the bone marrow where it shuts down production of body's protective white blood cells (panleukopenia). The result is a catastrophic decline in body's defensive abilities that often leads to mortality through secondary bacterial infection.

Next the virus moves to the intestines where it destroys the protective gut lining, again exposing the cat to infection as well as causing life threatening diarrhea. Since there is no medicinal cure, the virus completes its natural cycle of progression until either the victim succumbs or recovers enough to combat it. The virus, however, stays in the animal for several weeks and is capable of spreading to other felines even after there are no residual signs of illness in the originally infected cat.

Examination of infected cats reveals high fever, dehydration and lymphadenopathy. Blood picture reveals a universal reduction in leukocyte (white blood cell) count. Therapeutic options are mainly limited and supportive, comprising mainly of fluid infusion and antibiotic prophylaxis to protect against opportunistic infections. In pregnant cats even a mild infection may lead to abortion or cerebellar hypoplasia in kittens.

Therefore, apart from making sure that your own pets are vaccinated on schedule, if you come across a stray kitten or a frail adult cat, try to help it by taking it to the vet for proper immunization since there is a good probability that it will come across the Feline Distemper Virus in the outdoors. And if its body's defense mechanism is deficient or under stress, the poor cat may not be able to fight off the aggressive disease and rapidly fade away.


Jena Isle said...

That was a very informative post. Thanks for sharing.

Jennifer said...

I second Jena - very informative. My cat was diagnosed with feline distemper and not given good odds. In our favor though was blood work revealing a still high white blood count and my ability and willingness to provide all the necessary supportive care, including injections of fluids to combat dehydration. I also gave colloidal silver. I was not able to get, but found through research, a product called Kitty Distempaid, an herbal remedy that supposedly helps kittens recover. He has survived a week and a half so far so it looks good! Please don't consider distmper a death sentence.

Anonymous said...

We recently adopted a 10 week old kitten from the shelter, about 4 days after we got him home he started to sneeze, then he became very lethargic and stopped eating. We took him to the vet who said he had a URI and gave us Lysine to help treat it. The next day he wouldn't eat or drink anything so we took him back to the vet, they took blood and gave us more lysine and doxycyc and sent him home. The following day I received the phone call from the vet informing me that his WBC count was at 300, so we took him in right away and he was immediately placed under "supportive care" and has now been there for about 5 days with little change. The bill is getting up there and I wanted to find out if caring for him at home is an option or if keeping him at the hospital gives him a better chance of survival, any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

i had 2 cats that came to our garden as kittens and became very friendly, i had them spayed but in my stupidity didnt bother with vaccinations..... one day they suddenly got sick , alas, they both died after 5 days intensive treatment at the animal hospital... they just didnt make it through.. rule number one; vaccinate your cats

Anonymous said...

I adopted a kitten from an animal shelter that said she had all her shots. We got her home and then a couple months later she got really lethargic and wouldnt eat. We didnt get a chance to take her to the vet before she passed. Every one is saying that she probably had panleukopenia. I just wish we could have known about this sooner.

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