Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPL or Distemper)

Feline Panleukopenia is a highly contagious, life threatening disease caused by single-stranded DNA viruses belonging to the Parvoviridae family. It is also known as Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPLV), Feline Parvovirus (FPV), Feline infectious enteritis (FIE), Feline Distemper (it bears no resemblance to the Canine Distemper). FPL is not zoonotic which means humans cannot get the disease if exposed to the virus. However there are reported incidents of humans getting mild rash.

Parvoviridae family has close to 56 known species which affects wild animals, aquatic animals, domestic animals like cats, dogs, pigs, cows, poultry birds, bats and Humans.

Parvo in dogs is known as Canine Parvovirus (CPV), Parvo and Parvoviral Enteritis . Parvo which affects Humans is called “Parvovirus B-19” or the “Fifth Disease”.

FPL has a global distribution and is known to survive in the environments for long periods of time.

Transmission happens primarily from inhalation, direct contact with the infected pet, fleas, feces or urine, contaminated objects. Wild animals such as raccoons, mink, ferrets are known carriers of the virus.

Sensitivity varies from one individual to another. Once in the body, Panleukopenia attacks rapidly growing cells from digestive system, bone marrow, lymph tissues and the nervous system (especially the white blood cells (WBC). The primary function of WBC’s is to enhance immunity and defend against any infections and diseases be it viral or systemic. Panleukopenia is a decrease affecting the white blood cells (WBC) in the body. Clinical signs include Vomiting, diarrhea, reluctance to food and water, pain and weakness.

Younger cats and kittens (between 6 weeks to 9 weeks) are at high risk. Cats with an existing disease, immuno compromised cats, senior cats, pregnant queens, cats living in unhygienic or contaminated environments are susceptible to this disease.


Feline Panleukopenia is caused by single-stranded DNA viruses belonging to the Parvoviridae family.

Primary mode of transmission in inhalation.
Direct contact with contaminated objects such as food and water dishes, bedding, toys, furniture, litter boxes, from humans (un-washed hands after handling an infected pet, shoes, clothes), from infected feces and urine, direct contact with the infected pet, pregnant queen to her kittens can lead to the disease.

Clinical Signs & Symptoms

The incubation period for Panleukopenia is between 7 to 14 days. Symptoms observed are very similar to Canine Parvovirus and Canine Distemper.

Common symptoms are:
› Depression
› Anorexia (Loss of Appetite)
› Pyrexia (Fever)
› Weight loss
› Lethargy
› Tachypnea (Rapid Breathing Rate)
› Dyspnea (Trouble Breathing)
› Melena (Blood in Stool)
› Hypothermia (lower than normal body temperature)
› Weakness
› Distinctive odor
› Dehydration
› Vomiting (will also have a frothy, yellow-stained bile)
› Diarrhea (Loose stools)
› Seizures


Diagnosis needs to be accurate as FPL can mimic symptoms of other known diseases such as Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), Pancreatitis, Salmonellosis.

Veterinarians will require a complete history of your cat which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done with a combination of tests. These include routine lab examinations and special tests which can detect the presence of the parasite. They are:

› Physical examination
› Complete Blood Count (CBC) (WBC test confirms the diagnosis)
› Biochemical profile
› Urinalysis
› Fecal Examination
› Canine Parvovirus Test


Distemper treatment requires immediate and intensive veterinary management. Patients that come in with symptoms suggestive of this disease should be isolated immediately due to its infectious potential to other pets.

Once diagnosis confirms FPL, treatment needs to be started immediately. It is mandatory pets should not eat or drink until the vomiting has completely stopped.
› Fluid therapy – infected pets become severely dehydrated, fluid therapy is required to maintain hydration.
› Use of IV fluids – Fluids along-with medications are generally the choice of treatment to control vomiting and bloody diarrhea.
› Antibiotic medications

[All medications, procedures has to be followed for a successful recovery. Monitoring electrolytes and blood sugar levels, dehydration is crutial.]


Vaccination is the single most effective way of preventing FPL. Restrict your pets movement and always keep them indoors (atleast for the first four months) till they have completed their vaccination series. Do not allow puppies to roam freely, interact with other cats and possible exposure to contaminated sources. Kittens are extremely vulnerable after 2 weeks of age.
Please contact your veterinarian for a complete kitten vaccination schedule, do not miss or skip and vaccines. Vaccines are meant to trigger and enhance immunity against infections and diseases.

Home Care

Home care should aim at improving the condition. FPV causes immunosupression (immunity is compromised) and your cat is at a higher risk of getting secondary infections. Treatment can range from a few days to a few weeks. If you observe any behavioral changes, or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian.

› Vaccinating your cat.
› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your cat. Keep water and food bowls within reach. Avoid physical activity. Keep your cats away from any noise and commotions.
› You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicine as directed by your veterinarian.
› Do NOT travel with your cat.
› Do NOT allow your cat to roam freely. This works two ways, firstly if the cat is infected, it greatly reduces the chances of risk of exposure to other pets and humans and secondly in-case of a healthy pet, it reduces the chances of contracting the infection.
› Routine and regular checkups to access the progress, further tests may be advised this includes Liver and kidney function tests, blood tests. Monitor and administer all medications as directed by your veterinarian and complete the dosage.
› Humans, especially children, pregnant women and ones handling infected pets need to exercise caution. Wear gloves when dealing with a pet, cleaning the litter boxes, disposing any and all contaminated materials, garbage disposals etc. A thorough wash of hands is advised. Practice hygiene.
› Kittens should be vaccinated at the age of six weeks and complete their vaccination series.
› Post recovery care involves re-hydrating, prescription diets, medications to enhance immunity as directed by your veterinarian.
› Environment decontamination: Cleaning the areas where the pet has vomited and had diarrhea with a 10% bleach solution, Parvosol, or other hospital disinfectant is recommended. Use of environmental disinfectants is recommended. Prompt disposal of any and all materials after use is suggested.

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