Our cats are just as capable of becoming unwell as we are, and the illnesses and diseases that affect them can be just as severe. Fortunately, it is now possible to protect our furbabies from many of these problems using vaccinations. Feline distemper is one example of a serious disease that used to affect cats worldwide but is now much rarer thanks to the success of preventative vaccines.
What is feline distemper?
Feline distemper, also known as feline panleukopenia or FPV, is a highly contagious and potentially life-threatening virus. It affects the blood cells in the intestinal tract, bone marrow and stem cells and can lead to anemia, as well as making your cat’s body vulnerable to other potentially serious bacterial or viral infections.
What causes feline distemper?
Feline distemper is spread when a healthy cat comes into contact with bodily fluids from an infected animal. These include feces, urine, blood, saliva and even nasal discharge. It can also occur if your furbaby is bitten by a flea that has previously been feeding on an infected cat.
Unfortunately, the possibilities for contamination don’t end there. Feline distemper can be spread from contact with contaminated bedding, food and water bowls and even toys, or by failing to wash your hands properly if you have been in contact with any infected animal. It can also be walked into your property on your shoes and clothes, meaning that even a purely indoor kitty is still at risk of the disease unless she is sufficiently vaccinated.
If you have a young kitten born to a mother who already has the distemper virus, she may pass it to her offspring through her milk.
How will I know if my cat has feline distemper?
There are a variety of symptoms that might indicate that your furbaby is suffering from feline distemper. These include the following:
- Anemia symptoms, such as pale gums
- Depression / withdrawn behavior
- Diarrhea (sometimes accompanied by blood)
- Difficulty walking
- Discharge from the eyes
- Excessive sneezing
- Hiding away from other people and animals
- Lack of coordination
- Loss of appetite
- Poor coat condition
- Runny nose / cold-like symptoms
- Weight loss
Can feline distemper be treated?
Unfortunately, there is currently no medication that will completely cure feline distemper. Instead, medical intervention will focus on controlling and reducing the symptoms that your cat is experiencing. This could involve a series of different therapies and management techniques including pain relief, antibiotics and fluids. Your cat will probably need to stay in veterinary hospital for at least a few nights before being released home for ongoing care and support. If she is treated promptly, there is a chance she will make a full recovery.
Once your kitty is allowed home, she will need to be quarantined from other animals in your home. Everything that she has come into contact with will need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Use a dishwasher and machine wash everything possible.
Feline distemper may sound like a frightening condition, but if you ensure that your cat is properly vaccinated and adheres strictly to the vaccination schedule provided by our veterinarian, you can protect her from this serious and potentially deadly condition.
If you are concerned about feline distemper and would like more information, or you would like your kitty to be seen by our experienced veterinary team, please do not hesitate to contact us and get in touch with our clinic.