All Creatures Veterinary Hospital

All Creatures Veterinary Hospital
4549 HW 62 West
Mountain Home, AR 72653
(870) 425-5175


Feline Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper)

Feline panleukopenia (pan-look-o-pee-nee-uh), also known as feline distemper, is highly contagious viral disease of cats caused by the feline parvovirus. It is NOT contagious from cat to dog, or from cat to human, but is very contagious from cat to cat. Feline panleukopenia virus kills rapidly dividing body cells, such as intestinal cells and blood cells. The loss of intestinal cells causes vomiting and diarrhea and allows bacteria to enter the blood causing sepsis (blood infection). The loss of blood cells causes anemia and a weakened immune system, making the cat much more susceptible to secondary infections.

Infection occurs when a cat comes in contact with the blood, urine, feces, secretions, or even fleas of an infected cat. Young cats and kittens are susceptible, but adults can contract the virus. Pregnant females that contract the disease may give birth to kittens with severe brain damage. A cat can become infected without ever coming in direct contact with an infected cat. Bedding, cages, food dishes, and hands or clothing of caretakers can be a source of infection. The virus is very stable in the environment for up to one year. A diluted solution of 1:10 parts of bleach to water is effective at killing the virus on surfaces.

The signs of feline panleukpenia are variable and may mimic other diseases such as feline leukemia or FIV. Signs may include generalized depression, weakness, and loss of appetite, fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. Diagnosis of panleukopenia is based on clinical signs, vaccination history, and results of blood tests including a CBC that measures red and white blood cell counts. There is no cure for the virus. Treatment is supportive; consisting of preventing dehydration with intravenous fluids, and fighting secondary infections with antibiotics. The prognosis for kittens less than eight weeks old is poor. Older cats may survive if treatment is initiated early on in the disease.

Feline panleukopenia is preventable by vaccination of kittens at least three times while under four months old and yearly vaccination of adult cats. These vaccines are preventative, not curative, so vaccinating a sick cat will not help its chances of survival.

If you have questions concerning feline panleukopenia, call our office at (870) 425-5175.