Panleukopenia is a serious viral disease that affects cats, especially the very young and the elderly. Gastrointestinal symptoms are characteristic and responsible for a life-threatening condition for which there is no treatment.
And as it is better to be safe than sorry, we want to inform you about the main symptoms of this disease and how to avoid it.
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What is feline panleukopenia?
Panleukopenia is a highly contagious disease caused by a parvovirus of the same family that causes parvovirus in dogs , both diseases being similar. These viruses have a high affinity for cells found in the digestive tract , where they will cause injury.
As it is a viral disease, there is no drug that can combat it, so, as it also has a high mortality rate, it is better to prevent it than to cure it .
Symptoms of panleukopenia in kittens
By affecting the digestive system, the typical symptoms of this disease will be vomiting and diarrhea , both very intense and characterized by their strong smell and the presence of blood.
The cat will also be depressed, with a fever and will reject food. All this, together with the high fluid loss caused by diarrhea and vomiting, cause the animal to become dehydrated, which increases its discomfort and aggravates the condition. Dehydration can be a cause of hypothermia.
Although there are other causes that can explain bloody diarrhea, we can suspect panleukopenia if we are dealing with a kitten that has not been properly vaccinated . Of course, any of the mentioned symptoms is a reason for veterinary consultation.
These characteristic signs guide the veterinarian towards the diagnosis of panleukopenia. In case of doubt, there is the possibility of doing a rapid test by taking a stool sample, although a negative result does not completely rule out the disease.
Treatment for panleukopenia in cats
There is no treatment that can eliminate the viruses, therefore, we can only help the cat to overcome the disease by establishing a support protocol that, of course, the veterinarian must guide.
To achieve a cure it is very important that this treatment is started early. To do this, as soon as we appreciate any of the symptoms described, we must transfer the cat to the clinic. Panleukopenia usually implies hospital admission for at least 24-48 hours.
The fundamental thing is to stabilize the animal, recovering hydration through the administration of fluids intravenously . Antibiotics are also used to control the appearance of bacterial infections that can take advantage of the cat’s state of weakness to manifest themselves.
In addition, medications are administered to relieve symptoms, such as antiemetics or gastric protectors. At first the drugs are used intravenously. Once the cat improves, we will proceed to medicate it orally.
By reducing vomiting and improving hydration, it is also important to restart feeding , for which we can use specific veterinary diets, adapted to convalescence, highly nutritious, palatable and with a soft texture that facilitates intake. They mix easily with water, forming a pap that can be given with a syringe in those cats that do not dare to eat alone. Heating food can help.
What should I do if one of my cats has panleukopenia and the rest do not?
If we are caregivers of several cats and only one of them becomes ill, the first thing we must take into account is the vaccination status of those that remain healthy. If they are all correctly vaccinated it is difficult for the contagion to occur.
On the other hand, if it is kittens without vaccination, the ideal would be to keep them completely separated , in addition to using gloves and changing clothes after handling the sick animal.
On the other hand, panleukopenia, like any other disease, has an incubation period. This means that, before the symptoms appear, the cats have been living together, so everyone has had the opportunity to become infected.
The reaction of cats to the same virus can be very different. Thus, depending on their immune response, there will be cats that become seriously ill and die, others survive, with or without sequelae , while some manage to control the disease and do not present any symptoms.
We must disinfect the surfaces and objects with which the sick cat has come into contact with some enzymatic detergent and diluted bleach, leaving it to act for about ten minutes.
Can my cat get panleukopenia?
Panleukopenia is a specific disease, which means that it can only affect, in this case, one species: cats. Therefore, even in close coexistence, a sick cat cannot infect other animals or human beings .
How to prevent panleukopenia
The best form of prevention is vaccination. The vaccination schedule for kittens begins around eight weeks of age and must be continued throughout life, following the dosage and guidelines indicated by the veterinarian .
Vaccines use inactivated virus or virus fragments to present them to the cat’s immune system. In this way the animal can create defenses against this pathogen. Thus, if contact with the real virus occurs, the body already has defenses with which to fight it, so either the disease does not develop or it is mild.
If we introduce a new cat into a home where there are already others and we do not know its vaccination status, it is convenient that we establish a quarantine period so that we keep it separated from the rest until it is verified that it is not sick.
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