Feline distemper, otherwise known as Panleukopenia, is a highly infectious disease. This virus is widespread, with almost all of the cats affected contracting it in the first year of their lives. It spreads throughout the cat's body and attacks the cells of the digestive system, bone marrow, lymph tissue and nervous system.
Distemper is contagious, and is spread through contact. It takes around 4-5 days from the time of exposure for any symptoms to show up. The virus is stable, and is able to live many years at room temperature, and at some lower temperatures. Panleukopenia can not be killed by most disinfectants. To kill it, use a bleach solution of one part bleach to 32 parts water. This should render the virus inactive.
Cats aren’t the only animal affected by this disease. Other animals, such as ferrets, raccoons and minks can become infected as well.
By an infected cat's urine or feces - Even after a cat has recovered from the virus it can still show up in their feces and urine for up to six weeks. It's important to thoroughly wash and sanitize your cat's belongings, such as water bowls, food bowls, litter boxes and even your own things, such as your clothing, shoes and hands.
From the mother cat to her kittens before giving birth.
Through flea infestation.
If you suspect your cat has contracted this virus, take him to the vet for a complete checkup. Your veterinarian will look over your cat's medical history, symptoms, and do a series of tests to determine if Panleukopenia is present.
To treat dehydration, fluids will be given by either an IV or subcutaneously.
If a cat is severely affected, a blood transfusion may be called for. Medications and antibiotics may be given, along with various B vitamins.
Once vomiting has stopped, your cat will be put on a plain, bland diet.
Fortunately for cat owners, this life threatening virus can be prevented through a vaccination.
All kittens under six weeks old, who you feel may have been exposed, should be given a "killed virus" vaccine rather than a "live vaccine". Giving a live vaccine to a pregnant cat could cause her body to abort the kittens or could give the kittens cerebullum.
When a pregnant cat is infected she will pass the virus onto her unborn kittens. This could potentially abort the kittens or cause still-births.
If the kittens make it through birth, there may be complications such as tremors (generally of the head), and their balance will be off. The kittens may also suffer problems with their retinas. Generally though, as these kittens grow and develop, they will usually be able to live somewhat normal lives.