Feline Distemper is known by many names.
The medical term for it is Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV), but it is also known as Feline Parvovirus and Feline Infectious Enteritis.
Feline panleukopenia is a highly infectious (or contagious disease).
It is caused by the parvovirus, which is an exceptionally hardy virus that is able to survive outside the body in the environment for a year or more and this is another reason why it is such a killer disease.
The feline parvovirus is exceptionally resistant to many disinfectants and even heat, so once your home, garden or cattery is contaminated, it is very difficult to eliminate.
The bad news about feline infectious enteritis is that the mortality rate is high and there is no specific treatment for the disease.
The good news is that it is a preventable disease.
Feline distemper is a feline disease that has no boundaries - it is found worldwide.
Most responsible cat owners do vaccinate their cats. Reputable cat breeders vaccinate all their kittens prior to homing them.
So whilst this killer disease may be less prevalent than it was a years ago, cats in rescue shelters, cats from backyard breeders, kittens under 16 weeks and feral cats are still prone to this disease.
Feline parvovirus is not only found in domestic cats, wild
cats like the leopard, lion, cheetah and tigers are also subject to this
The virus is found in the feces (stools), saliva, urine, blood and vomit of cats that are infected with this feline disease.
As previously mentioned, it is a very tough virus that is able to survive in the environment for a long time.
This means, that any unvaccinated cat that comes into direct contact with an infected cat or the bodily fluids from an infected cat, will become infected with the feline distemper virus.
Feeding and water dishes, bedding, cat toys, furniture and the general environment all pose a threat if they have been contaminated with urine, feces, mucus, blood or vomit from an infected cat.
Humans who are in contact with infected cats will also transfer the virus on their shoes, clothes and hands and thereby contaminate or infect healthy cats.
No, humans cannot catch FPV from animals - it is not a zoonotic disease.
Sadly, FPV does cross the placental barrier, which means that a pregnant queen will transfer the virus to her unborn kittens.
Experts seem divided on whether cats are 'carriers' of the FPV virus.
What can be confirmed is that infected cats shed the virus for at least
4 - 6 weeks, making them 'temporary carriers' and therefore highly
Early diagnosis by a veterinarian is critical if the cat or kitten has any chance of survival.
The veterinarian will take a medical history from the cat owner. At this stage it is important to provide the vet with an accurate account of all the signs which could potentially be feline distemper symptoms.
A full physical examination will be conducted and blood and fecal samples will be taken for laboratory analysis.
The results of these tests will either confirm or exclude feline infectious enteritis.
The blood sample will show the presence of antibodies or parvovirus. The blood sample will also exhibit a low leukocyte count - leukocytes are white blood cells that defend the body against invading infectious diseases.
Once a diagnosis is is made, the vet will proceed with treatment.
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