Feline Distemper: Easily Preventable
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.