Feline Distemper: Easily Preventable

There is no specific drug that cures feline distemper, so vaccination is important

Feline distemper is a potentially serious and fatal intestinal virus most commonly found in unvaccinated kittens less than one year of age. This virus, more accurately known as panleukopenia, is closely related to parvovirus found in dogs. Symptoms of feline distemper include anorexia, vomiting and/or bloody offensive diarrhea. Rapid weight loss and dehydration is also seen in affected cats.

Transmission of this virus is usually through the fecal/oral route, and may be seen in crowded, unsanitary conditions, including shelters and pet shops. Diagnosis is usually made by clinical exam findings, as well as blood work that reveals severely depressed white blood cell counts, as well as often red cell and platelet numbers. There is no specific drug that cures feline distemper, with treatment usually being supportive, including IV fluids, antibiotics and adjunctive vitamin therapy. Prognosis in severely affected kittens is guarded. The disease is highly preventable through appropriate kittenhood vaccination up through at least 16 weeks of age. Vaccination usually gives years to lifetime of protection and immunity.

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  1. Distemper is a very common disease that, as you said, is completely preventable. When we get our kitten/cat we do not know for 100% certainty what they have been exposed to. Distemper, in my experience, spreads very easily with cats in close contact even if the living conditions are the cleanest possible. So to prevent our other pets from getting the disease why not get them vaccinated. Thanks for the info!

  2. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 20, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    You are very welcome.

  3. i have taken a stray cat and her kittens in two of wich died i know they have distemper what do i need to do i also have two cats of my own one is less then 6 months old the other is 2 years old and is close to having kittens what can i do to protect them and the unborn kittens please help me

  4. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 23, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    The 6 month old can be vaccinated. For the 2 year old who is pregnant, simply isolate this cat to have her kittens, and then when kittens 6 weeks old, I would vaccinate mom and kittens

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