Cats and Panleukopenia aka Feline Distemper

by catfood

All feline family members are susceptible to the highly contagious viral illness known as feline distemper, also known as panleukopenia. Raccoons, mink, and coatimundis are also impacted. The most vulnerable are kittens, and kitten season is frequently associated with its prevalence. However, panleukopenia can appear at any time of the year in cats of any age. Although it was once rather common, thanks to the widespread adoption of an extremely efficient vaccination, its occurrence has recently decreased. According to reports from shelters, the sickness may be making a resurgence or may simply be easier to diagnose. It most frequently affects populations of uninfected cats and has a very high fatality rate, particularly among kittens.


The panleupkopenia virus is actually a parvovirus family member. Another member of this family is well recognized for being the reason why dogs get the fatal parvo virus. The viruses that cause the diseases are particularly challenging to eradicate and can survive in the environment for up to a year. Thankfully, bleach is one of the most accessible yet efficient ways to neutralize it for shelters. It may be made safe for use around cats while still being effective by diluting it 1 part bleach to 32 parts water. Make sure the disinfectant is tested and marked as parvocidal if bleach is not being used.


A physical examination, clinical indicators, and the presence of a low white cell count on blood tests are frequently used to identify the condition. Other viral isolation tests may be performed in professional labs, and necropsies are frequently used to make the diagnosis. The CITE test, which is frequently used to find canine parvo, can also be used to identify the virus. In addition to being susceptible to various viral and bacterial illnesses, cats with distemper may also exhibit misleading symptoms of upper respiratory virus infections.


Direct oral contact between infected cats or contact with their excretions, including feces, urine, saliva, and vomit, is how the virus is disseminated. During the acute or early stages of the disease, fleas can also spread it. Another way for diseases to spread is through fomites (infected things). Hands, clothing, food and water dishes, litter pans, bedding, etc. are examples of common fomites. The incubation period, or time between virus encounter and the onset of symptoms, lasts 3 to 10 days.


The symptoms might be extremely general and vary significantly.


No symptoms exist.

Mild illness

A slight rise in temperature and a decrease in appetite

Extreme cases:

High temperature (T104 and above), depression, appetite loss, vomiting, and diarrhea are examples of sudden signs. Dehydration is present, the hair coat is rough and dry, and the third eyelid might be visible. Gas and fluid will accumulate in the intestines, causing discomfort in the abdomen. A hunched-over posture or the cats’ heads hanging over their food or water bowls are also fairly common symptoms.

Unexpected death

The cat passes away unexpectedly, showing no symptoms or any.

Cervicogenic hypoplasia:

When the virus affects the kitten in utero, this condition develops. These kittens may seem normal at birth, but when they first try to walk, they have poor balance, stagger, and fall over. Kittens that are coordinated enough to feed can be adopted, despite the fact that this condition will last their entire lives.



Typically, panleukopenia has a high mortality rate. There is no known treatment, but it can be managed. Supportive care is used as a form of treatment until the body produces enough antibodies on its own to kill the virus. Antibiotics to combat secondary bacterial infections, fluids to treat dehydration, vitamin supplementation, and control of vomiting and diarrhea are all parts of supportive care. There is a larger possibility for recovery if the cat endures for five days.

Because distemper symptoms are so ambiguous, it is crucial to confine cats to a shelter as soon as any sickness emerges. By keeping the patient isolated, the illness won’t spread to other cats and there will be less likelihood that they will contract additional illnesses that could cloud the diagnosis and lessen their chances of recovering.

Decisions regarding treatment should be carefully considered. It should be taken into consideration that

  • This illness has a significant death rate; some estimates put it at up to 90%.
  • Intensive care therapy is required for several days to treat
  • However, it may take weeks to recuperate enough to be adoptable.
  • The lives of both current and future occupants of Celine are at jeopardy because the virus can survive in the environment for years.

To lessen their suffering and prevent the transmission of illness, critically ill cats should be put to sleep if a rigorous isolation facility is not available for their care.

Prevention and Disease Outbreak Management

  • Keep new animals in quarantine for two weeks.
  • Immediately isolate sick animals.
  • With bleach or a safe parvocidal disinfectant, clean and thoroughly disinfect cages (including bars, walls, tops, etc.), water bowls, and carrying cases every day and between tenants.

Make sure to adhere to the directions for disinfectant mixing, appropriate contact time, and rinsing. (For best effectiveness, let the bleach stay in surface contact for 5–10 minutes before rinsing.)


  • Cats should start receiving booster shots at 8 weeks old for kittens, and then every 3 weeks until they are 12 weeks old. In the event of a disease outbreak, think about switching from the intranasal vaccine to the parenteral (injected) vaccine.
  • Think about immunizing exposed cats, orphan kittens, or kittens who have never received colostrum using antiserum (plasma carrying antibodies).
  • Deworm regularly
  • Feed a healthy, economical diet.
  • Cats should be divided into litters and age groups.
  • Use single-use food containers, toys, and litter pans.
  • Install foot tubs and hand sanitizers
  • Limit the use of cleaning supplies to specific wards or rooms.
  • Keep a comfortable environment in place, with enough ventilation.
  • Avoid cleaning with mops.
  • Reduce tension!
  1. Refrain from crowding.
  2. Establish cleaning and feeding schedules.
  3. Toys and bedding that can be disposed of or cleaned should be made available.
  4. Reduce loud noises, especially barking dogs.

Wondering about Conjunctivitis in Cats Causes Treatment? Check it out on our latest post!


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