Feline panleukopenia is also known as Feline Distemper, or Feline Infectious Enteritis. It is a highly contagious disease, caused by a virus of the Parvovirus family, that is passed through bodily secretions and fluids and can survive for weeks or months outside of the body. The panleukopenia virus attacks the cat’s bone marrow, lymphoid tissue, and intestinal lining. This can cause a variety of problems in the body including secondary infection, anemia, immune system damage and gastrointestinal infection or damage.
Panleukopenia generally only attacks kittens, immunocompromised animals, and the very old. Panleukopenia is a fast acting disease, cats who are diagnosed early can survive. However, the virus can kill the cat very quickly so if you suspect that your cat has this disease take him/her to the vet immediately.
Symptoms to look for:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Hanging out around the water bowl without drinking
You vet will perform a blood test to confirm the presence of the virus and a decrease in white blood cell count (panleukopenia). Treatment is limited to supportive therapy to help the cat strengthen its own immune system and retain sufficient strength to combat the virus. There are no current cures or drugs to kill the virus itself.
As you can not kill the virus the best you can do is to help the cat kill any secondary infections and bolster the immune system to fight the virus. Thus your cat will possibly have fluid therapy, blood transfusions (depending on if the cat is anemic), and antibiotics to combat any secondary infections.
If your cat does have panleukopenia you will need to disinfect your home so as to not aggravate your cat’s condition or infect other cats in your home. The infected cat will also need to remain separated from any other cats in your home. Unfortunately most disinfectants do not kill panleukopenia. You will need a bleach-containing cleaning fluid to adequately kill the virus in your home.
The best precaution against this disease is vaccination. Also try to keep your cat indoors and limit exposure to unvaccinated or infected cats.