how distemper and Panleukopneia affects kittens...proper kitten care tips

Distemper in Cats & Kittens

Distemper is contagious viral disease that is brought on by Panleukopenia virus. It is often fatal if not treated. Your cat should be vaccinated against it.


The Panleukopenia virus first targets the lymph nodes of the throat, then the bone marrow and the intestines.
When in the bone marrow, the virus damages the immune system by suppressing the production of white blood cells, which are the primary line of defense for infection.

In the intestine, the virus causes ulceration that breaks down the lining between the intestines and the rest of the body. This results in bloody diarrhea, severe dehydration and bacterial infection. The last of which is especially difficult given the compromised immune system. Aside from being painful to your cat, the virus often brings about death.
Symptoms include fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, fevers, lethargy, loss of appetite,dehydration as well as possible self-biting in the taile, back leg / lower back area.

Because of their weak and as of yet fully developed immune systems, Panleukopenia in young kittens is 70-95% fatal even if treated (nearly 100% if no treatment). Even adult cats have a 80 to 90% fatality rate if not treated.

Nearly all cats will be exposed to the virus....immunization against the virus is VERY important.


Distemper is spread when Panleukopenia virus enters the body through the mouth or nose. This often happens when the cat has been in contact with the bodily fluids, feces, or fleas of an infected cat. Because the virus is very stable in the environment it can survive years at room temperature! The virus also does well at lower temperatures as well and is not easily killed by common disinfectants. Best bet for killing it is using a bleach solution (1 part bleach / 32 parts water for 10 minutes)

The panleukopenia virus is also often transmitted from the mother cat to her kittens during pregnancy.


Immunization with the with the Panleukopenia Vaccine is the best way to prevent it. The vaccine is often given in conjunction with other vaccines making it part of commonly applied 'combination vaccines'


Although distemper can be treated it is necessary that your vet initiate a fast and aggressive treatment since the disease can kill very quickly (sometimes ~24 hours). Treatment can involve blood transfusion, intravenous fluids, vitamin injections, IV antibiotics in an inpatient basis.

Again, best bet is to avoid this and have your cat vaccinated. - Simba

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