Written specifically for Your Best Friend Pet Boutique by Dr. Abdul Basit Javed (DVM, RVMP)
Cats are sensitive animals that are prone to a number of illnesses, including Cat Distemper. Identifying the symptoms and using the proper prevention strategies as a cat owner will help prevent this potentially fatal illness in cats.
Cat distemper is a highly contagious and fatal viral disease that affects cats. Cats under the age of a year are more vulnerable to this illness. Cat distemper mostly affects a cat's white blood cells and intestinal cells, suppressing its immunity.
If you own a cat and are concerned about cat distemper disease and want to learn how to prevent it, this article is for you. We've put together everything there is to know about cat distemper, including preventative strategies, so read on.
Cat distemper, also known as feline panleukopenia or feline enteritis, is a viral disease that affects cats worldwide. Cat distemper is caused by the feline parvovirus.
Cat distemper mostly affects rapidly dividing cells in a cat's body, such as intestine cells, white blood cells, bone marrow, skin cells, and fetal cells.
This disease is more common in kittens and cats under the age of one year. Cats typically contract the virus by coming into contact with an infected cat's bodily fluids and secretions, such as feces, urine, and saliva.
However, cats can also get infected if they get in contact with any fomites (brushes, blankets, feeding bowls, etc) of the infected cat.
If pregnant cats become infected with the feline panleukopenia virus, the developing fetuses can be affected, resulting in fetal mummification, stillbirth, and abortion.
Fetuses that survive the illness may develop cerebral hypoplasia as well as ataxia or incoordination for the rest of their lives.
What Are The Symptoms Of Cat Distemper?
Symptoms of cat distemper include the following:
- High fever (up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Abdominal pain
- Severe dehydration
What Is The Treatment For Cat Distemper
Because there is no specific treatment for the viral disease in cats, symptomatic treatment is given to the cat to treat cat distemper.
Fluid therapy is administered as a symptomatic treatment to assist the cat in recovering from dehydration.
Cats are often given medications to help reduce their vomiting and diarrhea. Antibiotics are also given to cats to combat bacterial infections because cat distemper suppresses their immunity.
How To Prevent Cat Distemper
The following are some effective methods for preventing cat distemper or feline panleukopenia in cats.
- Vaccination is the most effective strategy to prevent cat distemper or feline panleukopenia in cats. Inactivated and modified-live virus vaccinations that provide cats with long-term immunity against cat distemper are administered.
The first vaccine shot is given between the ages of 6 and 9 weeks, followed by a second shot before the age of 16 weeks. Vaccine boosters are given annually after the second shot.
- It is not recommended to administer live vaccinations to pregnant cats, immunocompromised cats, sick kittens, or kittens under 4 weeks old.
- Another effective method is to keep your cat's and kittens' habitat clean at all times. When cleaning the surfaces, apply strong disinfectants to help kill the virus.
- Also, no stray cats should be allowed to interact with the household cats or kittens. To avoid viral exposure, keep your kittens and cats indoors the majority of the time.
- Grzyb, K., DVM. (2022, August 24). Feline Panleukopenia Virus in Cats (Feline Distemper). PetMD. https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/infectious-parasitic/c_ct_feline_panleukopenia
- Squires, R. A. (2023, January 31). Feline Panleukopenia. MSD Veterinary Manual. https://www.msdvetmanual.com/generalized-conditions/feline-panleukopenia/feline-panleukopenia
- Stott, D. (2023, February 7). Distemper in Cats. Signs, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost. https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/distemper