Feline Distemper

cat looking sick

Feline distemper or feline panleukopenia is a highly contagious viral disease of kittens and adult cats caused by the feline parvovirus. It is also called panleukopenia as it affects the bone marrow and causes low white blood cell counts. It is relatively common in unvaccinated cats and is often fatal, especially in young kittens. It has been referred to as Feline Distemper, but in fact, it is a different virus than canine distemper and causes different symptoms.

Early symptoms of feline distemper infection are lethargy and loss of appetite then rapid progression to severe, sometimes bloody diarrhea and vomiting. These signs are very similar to other diseases, some serious, some not so serious. Therefore, if any abnormal behaviors or signs of illness are observed, it is important to have your veterinarian examine your pet as soon as possible. A diagnosis of distemper is presumed if vomiting and diarrhea are present along with a low white blood cell count. A diagnosis of distemper is confirmed when the virus is detected in blood or feces.

Another syndrome associated with the feline distemper virus occurs when a susceptible pregnant cat or a newborn kitten is exposed. The kittens will have permanent damage to the cerebellum part of the brain and walk with an uncoordinated gait and an elevated tail. It may also affect the retinas of their eyes. They are otherwise alert and act normal.

Infection occurs when unvaccinated cats come in contact with the virus, which may be by contact with blood, urine, feces, nasal secretions, or even the fleas from an infected cat. The hands and clothing of people who handle infected cats can also spread the disease. Unfortunately, the virus is very resistant to environmental conditions and difficult to destroy; it can remain infective for years. Routine household disinfectants will not kill the virus, and a 1 to 30 dilution of bleach should be used to clean any appropriate surfaces.

There is no medication to kill the virus. Hospitalization with IV fluid therapy and antibiotics to prevent secondary infection are necessary to support the cat's health while its own body is fighting the infection. Not all will survive.

Preventing the infection through vaccination is better rather than treating an infected cat. Today's vaccines are very effective in helping your pet protect itself from infection. A series of kitten vaccinations followed by adult boosters stimulate the cat's immune system to produce protective antibodies. Should the cat come into contact with the virus, these same antibodies will help your cat successfully fight off the infection.

Consult with your veterinarian for advice on a vaccination schedule appropriate for your pet.

No form settings found. Please configure it.

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

7:00

Varies

Tuesday:

7:00

Varies

Wednesday:

7:00

Varies

Thursday:

7:00

Varies

Friday:

7:00

Varies

Saturday:

Closed

Closed

Sunday:

Closed

Closed

Location

Find us on the map

Testimonial

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "Dr. Savell has always gone above and beyond for the care of our family's pets for several years."
    John Doe Newport News, VA

Featured Articles

Read about interesting topics

  • Fish

    If you’re thinking of getting a pet fish, you should know that your veterinarian has a lot of good advice about pet ownership. Fish can be very rewarding as pets, and you just may be surprised about how much fish actually interact with their owners. Here’s more valuable information about choosing ...

    Read More
  • Caring for Senior Cats

    Thanks to advancements in veterinary care, today’s cats can live well into their teen years. It is not uncommon for cats to live to be 18 or even older. However, in order for cats to live a long full life, they need proactive veterinary care to stay healthy. As cats age, they are at greater risk for ...

    Read More
  • Feline Stomatitis: Treatments

    Cats rarely display their pain, but cats with feline stomatitis are often the exception. If your cat appears to have mouth pain, is reluctant to eat, doesn't want to groom, is drooling, and doesn't want you to open its mouth, it may be suffering from this debilitating, degenerative oral condition, and ...

    Read More
  • Feline Leukemia Virus: What You Need to Know

    Feline leukemia (FeLV) is a virus that weakens your cat's immune system. Unfortunately, when the immune system does not function properly, your cat may be more likely to develop other diseases, such as cancer and blood disorders. How Cats Contract Feline Leukemia Cats get feline leukemia from other cats. ...

    Read More
  • Family Cats and Pregnant Women: Take Measures to Prevent Toxoplasmosis Infection

    Nothing must spoil the joys of becoming a new parent. Not even your pets. But family cats with normal, every day habits can pose a risk to expectant women. Women's immune systems can be disturbed by a parasite carried in fecal matter. If you're the primary caretaker of your family's feline friend it ...

    Read More
  • Create an Environment Your Cat Will Love

    The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery confirms that feline emotional wellbeing, behavior and physical health are a result of how comfortable they are in their environment. Understanding how our cats interact with their environment can help us create a space for owners and cats to mutually thrive ...

    Read More
  • Catnip: Why Cats Love It

    Few things stimulate a cat's pleasure faster than catnip. Exposure to this simple herb can reveal a new side to their feline personality. Many cats will go crazy at the smell of this plant. Catnip has a reputation of being a feline drug and many cat owners wonder if it is safe to give it to their pet. ...

    Read More
  • Zoonosis

    Zoonosis refers to diseases that can be transmitted to humans from animals. In particular, they occur when an infected animal passes on bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses to humans through scratches, saliva, feces and urine. Vectors (e.g., organisms like fleas and ticks) can also carry zoonotic diseases ...

    Read More
  • Sugar Gliders

    Thinking of getting a sugar glider? These tiny marsupials are energetic and friendly, making them popular choices as pets. Though they weigh less than a half-pound, they're more closely related to kangaroos than they are flying squirrels. If you think a sugar glider would make an ideal pet for your family, ...

    Read More
  • Epilepsy

    Epilepsy (often referred to as a seizure disorder) is a chronic neurological condition characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures. It is commonly controlled with medication, although surgical methods are used as well. Epileptic seizures are classified both by their patterns of activity in the brain ...

    Read More

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for more articles