Distemper in cats

Distemper in cats: does my cat have panleukopenia?

What is panleukopenia?

Panleukopenia (FPV) – also known as feline distemper – is a serious, highly contagious virus that affects the blood cells in the intestinal tract, bone marrow, and stem cells. It commonly goes on to cause anaemia and other viral and bacterial illnesses.

Is my cat at risk of panleukopenia?

Panleukopenia is most common in kittens aged between two and six months, because of their underdeveloped immune systems. Pregnant and elderly cats, and those with a weakened immune system, are also at risk.

Predominantly spread through the air, panleukopenia can be transmitted by breathing in the virus from an infected cat or environment, or through direct contact with bodily fluids such as the saliva, faeces or urine of an infected cat.

Why it’s important to vaccinate your cat against panleukopenia

Feline distemper was historically one of the most common causes of death in cats, but the effectiveness of vaccinations means the condition is now rare. Yet despite the rarity of the condition, there’s still no known cure for the disease – making it vital to keep your cat or kitten up to date with their annual booster injections.

As well as protecting your cat or kitten against this highly contagious and nasty disease, regular vaccinations are required by many catteries and pet insurers as a condition of cover.

Identifying the signs and symptoms of panleukopenia in cats

Left untreated, panleukopenia kills around 90 per cent of infected cats. If you spot any of the signs or symptoms in the box below, keep your cat away from other animals and make an appointment with your local vet right away.

The symptoms of feline distemper:

  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Sickness
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive sneezing

“Panleukopenia is transmitted through the air, or through direct contact with bodily fluids such as the saliva, faeces or urine of an infected cat.”

Need advice on panleukopenia in cats?

For more information on feline distemper, contact your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.