Feline panleukopenia is an extremely contagious life-threatening virus that affects cats and is similar to the canine parvovirus. The virus is spread via contact with bodily fluids and can be passed to kittens during pregnancy. It is able to survive in the environment and is resistant to many disinfectants including alcohol and iodine. The virus attacks the white blood cells needed to fight off the infection.
Signs of Panleukopenia
Severity of illness in an infected cat will depend on the number of invading virus particles and the strength of their immune system. Panleukopenia signs are similar to canine parvovirus, although many cats will succumb to the virus before GI signs occur. Panleukopenia signs in cats include:
- High fever
- Weight loss
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Lack of appetite
- Increased hiding
Kittens who are infected during the later stages of in utero development may be born with a neurologic condition called cerebellar hypoplasia which affects the part of the brain responsible for coordination, balance, and movement. Kittens born with panleukopenia may have tremors and a wobbly gait, but they can still have a good quality of life with intensive monitoring and care.
Panleukopenia treatment in cats
Cats who become sick with panleukopenia virus have a low chance of survival. However, immediate veterinary care will greatly increase your cat’s chance of fighting the virus. Your cat should have a lifetime of immunity against panleukopenia if recovery is successful. You should take your cat to your family veterinarian promptly if they show any panleukopenia signs. The signs of panleukopenia are similar to other feline diseases. It is vital to provide your veterinarian with a detailed history including vaccination status, current and previous environment, and contact with other potentially infected cats or people who have cats. Diagnosis is mostly based on your pet’s history and clinical signs, and possibly an in-house test which is used to diagnose canine parvovirus and can help lead to a feline panleukopenia diagnosis. Your family veterinarian will perform a nose-to-tail physical examination and will likely recommend aggressive supportive care and monitoring in the hospital for several days or weeks that may include:
- Intravenous fluid (IV) therapy to treat dehydration
- IV antibiotics to fight against secondary infections, especially in the GI tract
- Medication to control nausea and vomiting
- Pain medication
- Blood work to monitor blood sugar levels
- Blood work to monitor white and red blood cell counts and overall organ function
Cats who recover from the virus are still contagious and can shed the virus for up to six weeks after recovery, so ensure you quarantine your cat from other animals after they return home.
Panleukopaenia vaccine is an extremely effective preventative. Most kittens receive two kitten shots starting from eight weeks of age and then yearly booster. There is a two week window from when a kitten is vaccinated until antibodies are being made to offer some protection, so should ideally be completed before then are sent to their new home or mixed with other cats