What is feline panleukopenia?
Feline panleukopenia is the scientific name for a very serious disease in cats that is also called feline distemper. It is contagious to other cats and can be very deadly. Kittens and younger cats are especially at risk, as are older cats, because they do not have a fully developed immune system and have more trouble fighting it off. It is caused by a virus, and it spreads through direct contact between cats. Panleukopenia can also be spread by anything that has come into contact with a cat's body fluids - this means beds, food bowls, litter boxes, and any object the cat regularly has contact with. Something as simple as a sneeze can do it.
It takes about 10 days for symptoms to show up after the cat has been infected with panleukopenia. These symptoms can include vomiting, fever, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and dehydration. There is no cure for it at present, but you can help your cat survive it with fluids and antibiotics (the antibiotics don't affect the disease itself, but they do keep the cat from getting secondary infections in its weakened condition). Cats that recover will usually have no long-term effects from the experience. It is still a serious disease, however, and some cats do not survive.
Vaccination is considered the best way to prevent it, and kittens should get vaccinated at 6-8 weeks of age, with booster shots coming several weeks later. You need to quarantine any cats or kittens that get this away from other cats in your household, and destroy any items they have been using. Other cats from your house should be removed from wherever the cat with distemper has been located - talk to your vet about a quarantine plan if you have a multiple cat household and one of them gets this illness.
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