Feline Panleukopenia: What you should know, and how to protect your cat

White kitten with blue eyes

Feline Panleukopenia (FP) is a highly contagious and potentially fatal viral disease. It is caused by the feline parvovirus.  The virus, which is widespread, infects cats and kittens via contact with infected cats, contaminated objects, feces, urine, and bodily fluids.

What are the symptoms of Feline Panleukopenia?

Feline panleukopenia can be deadly and is highly contagious. The signs of the illness can be similar to many other diseases but most often include:

  • Gastrointestinal Symptoms – including vomiting, diarrhea (often bloody), loss of appetite, and dehydration
  • Fever
  • Depression and lethargy
  • Nasal discharge
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Neurological symptoms (in severe cases)

What should I do if my cat shows symptoms of feline panleukopenia?

If your cat is showing signs of FP, act promptly and:

  • Isolate them from any other pet in the household.
  • Contact your veterinarian or an emergency hospital. Early intervention is crucial for a better chance of recovery. Please mention that you suspect your pet may have feline panleukopenia, as there are increased safety measures in place at veterinary hospitals to protect other patients from contagious and deadly viruses like FP.
  • Disinfect anything your cat has touched, and anywhere your cat has been

Can a cat survive panleukopenia? Can panleukopenia be treated?

Cats can survive FP, but survival largely depends on several factors, including the cat’s age, overall health, the severity of the infection, and prompt veterinary care. The prognosis for a cat with FP depends on how quickly the disease is diagnosed and treated. Cats that receive early intervention, supportive care, and proper medical treatment have a better chance of survival.

Even with the best veterinary care, some cats may not survive severe cases of FP due to the rapid progression of the disease and its impact on the cat’s immune system.

Treatment focuses on supportive care, which may include:

  • Fluid Therapy: To combat dehydration and maintain electrolyte balance.
  • Nutritional Support: Providing easily digestible food to maintain nutrition.
  • Medication: Antibiotics to prevent secondary infections and medications to control vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Isolation: Quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus.

How contagious is panleukopenia?

Feline Panleukopenia is highly contagious among cats, especially kittens and unvaccinated cats. The virus is resilient and can survive in the environment for an extended period, making it easily transmissible. It spreads through direct contact with an infected cat, as well as indirectly through contaminated objects, feces, urine, and bodily fluids.

Because the virus is highly stable in the environment, it can persist for months, resisting many common disinfectants. This resilience increases the risk of transmission even in areas where infected cats were present weeks or months earlier.

Due to its contagious nature, FP can spread rapidly in multi-cat households, shelters, catteries, or any environment where cats come into contact with each other. Consequently, unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated cats are at higher risk of contracting the disease.

Can a house cat/indoor-only cat get feline panleukopenia?

House or indoor-only cats can contract Feline Panleukopenia under certain circumstances, although the likelihood is significantly lower than outdoor cats.

While the risk is lower for indoor cats due to limited exposure to potentially infected animals, there are scenarios where indoor cats could be at risk:

  • Exposure to a new unvaccinated cat or kitten –  If you find a stray cat or adopt a new cat, please make sure they are fully vaccinated before introducing them to your resident pets.
  • Exposure to other cats who have access to the outdoors –  If you have a cat who explores the outdoors and then comes back in around your indoor-only cat, your indoor-only cat has an increased risk of exposure to diseases such as FP.
  • Incomplete or no vaccinations– A simple vaccine can prevent FP. Make sure your pet is fully vaccinated.

How can I prevent my cat from getting feline panleukopenia?

Prevention is key in ensuring the best possible outcome for your cat.

  • Vaccination – Your cat is eligible for the first dose of the HCP combo vaccine at six weeks of age. After the initial vaccine, at least one additional vaccine will be required 3 to 4 weeks later. The vaccines are continued until your kitten is over 16 weeks of age. Boosters are necessary one year after the first series of shots, then every 1-3 years, depending on the product used.
  • Isolate and quarantine new cats – If you introduce a new cat into your household, quarantine the new cat until you can have them examined by a veterinarian and they are given a clean bill of health and started on preventive vaccines.
  • Regular check-ups and proper healthcare – Schedule routine check-ups with your veterinarian. Keep your cat healthy with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and appropriate preventive care against parasites.

Conclusion

Feline Panleukopenia is a serious disease that can be prevented through vaccination. Awareness of its symptoms, timely veterinary care, and responsible pet parenthood are essential in safeguarding cats from this potentially fatal virus.

As a cat parent, staying informed and proactive in preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk of Feline Panleukopenia, ensuring the health and well-being of your feline companions.

For any concerns or suspected cases, always seek guidance from a qualified veterinarian.