What is Panleucopaenia and how is it spread?

Panleucopaenia is the “cat version” of canine parvovirus which is a life-threatening virus. It is spread between infected cats and the virus enters the body via the mouth or nose. It survives in the environment (for up to a year) and can tolerate freezing and some disinfectants. Because of this, most cats at some point in their life are exposed to this virus. An infected cat can spread disease for up to 6 weeks post infection.

What are the effects?

Over 2 – 7 days after infection, the virus affects a cat’s lymph nodes, bone marrow and the intestine. In the bone marrow, the virus suppresses white blood cells hence the name panleucopaenia which means “all-white cell shortage”. The virus can cause a secondary bacterial infection in the intestines which can rapidly lead to death. Treatment involves intensive supportive care and isolation.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms vary from cat to cat, and include general depression, listlessness, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Skin loses its elasticity due to dehydration which is caused by vomiting and diarrhoea.

How can I protect my cat from it?

Standard cat vaccinations include protection for this virus and even cats whose vaccination is slightly overdue should still be protected. We recommend checking with your vet and updating their vaccination if required. Rest assured that if your cats are up-to-date with their health checks and vaccinations, then they are immune to this virus and are unlikely to get any symptoms even if exposed.

How prevalent is it?

Like many local hospitals we have seen a couple of cases in unvaccinated cats. We follow strict isolation protocols to ensure the remainder of our hospitalised and boarded animals are safe and at NO risk of exposure.

What should I do if think my cat could be affected?

Seek immediate veterinary assistance if your cat shows any sign of illness.