A Pet Owner’s Guide to Feline Panleukopenia

As a pet owner, there is nothing more stressful than when your cat is sick. And an illness or an infectious disease can pop up with little warning. With contagious diseases on the rise, we sat down with Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Caroline Wilde to learn more about feline panleukopenia and what to watch for in your furry family member.

Feline panleukopenia: what you need to know

What is feline panleukopenia?

As a cat owner, you might not know what feline panleukopenia or if your best friend is even sick. Wilde weighs in on feline panleukopenia below:

“Panleukopenia is a highly contagious virus of cats that is related to parvovirus of dogs. It primarily occurs in unvaccinated kittens, most commonly kittens 3-5 months of age. Also, it infects rapidly dividing cells in the body, with the most significant effects on the intestines, bone marrow, and lymphoid tissue. It causes the destruction of these cells, causing GI signs, including severe vomiting and diarrhea, and immunosuppression.”

If your kitten or cat is showing any of these signs, please seek medical care from your veterinarian. Vomiting and diarrhea is very serious as they can become dehydrated quickly. Also, wellness care is important for growing and developing kittens. If you have any questions about your pet’s wellness, consider checking in with your veterinarian.

How do cats get feline panleukopenia?

Viruses can be caught in a variety of places, including when your first bring your little kitten home. It is important to keep a tidy house and pet space. Here Wilde breaks down how kittens and cats contract the virus.

“Panleukopenia virus can be shed through all bodily secretions, but is shed primarily in the feces. It is very resistant to environmental factors and many disinfectants. Infected cats only shed the virus for 1-2 days, but because it is so highly resistant, the virus can persist in the environment for up to a year at room temperature in organic material.

That means, it can persist on items such as contaminated bedding, litter boxes, food bowls, and clothing. Cats and kittens that have recovered from the virus can continue to shed the virus for up to 6 weeks. Transmission can also occur from an infected female cat to her kittens before they are born.”

Your cat or kitten getting a virus can feel scary as a pet owner. You want your furry family members to be safe, happy, and healthy. By consulting with your veterinarian and seeking medical treatment your feline can get the care they need.

Signs of feline panleukopenia

It may be hard to tell if your furry friend is feeling unwell. As we all know, your feline friends can’t just tell you that they’re not feeling well.

Wilde weighs in on some common
signs of feline panleukopenia:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia

In addition, signs of the virus may vary, so it’s important to seek medical care if you notice this with your cat.

Treatment options

The expertise and guidance of your veterinarian can determine the best course of action for your cat. Naturally, the treatment plan may vary based on the progression of the virus. Wilde points out the progression and levels of treatment in virus-like feline panleukopenia

“Treatment is generally supportive care while the cat or kitten’s body is fighting the infection.  This supportive care usually includes hospitalization with aggressive fluid therapy to correct fluid consumption and losses due to vomiting, diarrhea, broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy.

There is, unfortunately, no treatment for kittens demonstrating neurologic signs due to in utero infection, as the virus causes underdevelopment of the part of the brain that controls movement, however, these kittens have normal mental activity, and can, therefore, live relatively normal lives.”

If your cat or kitten becomes sick with an infection or virus seek medical care immediately. By noting your cat’s behavior, catching the virus early on, and sticking to your veterinarian’s treatment plan, your cat can be virus-free and live a long and healthy life.

To learn more about cat wellness. read Matted Cat Hair: How to Help Your Feline Friends

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