Feline Distemper Symptoms

"Feline distemper symptoms include fever, anorexia, diarrhea and vomiting. In severe cases a condition called septic shock can set in which is a rapid drop in blood pressure leading to death. Cats affected with feline distemper appear with a rough coat, are dehydrated and lethargic. Feline distemper or feline panleukopenia affects the entire body (generalized disease) which is caused by the parvovirus. Distemper in cats may cause abortion, mummification and complications in pregnant queens.The virus is not killed by most disinfectants and can survive in the environment for months. Kitten distemper symptoms include problems with the nervous system and retina problems. Kittens may die with out revealing any signs. The Sudden onset of the disease often makes an owner think that a cat has been poisoned. The rate of death (mortality) is approximately 70%. It is lower in adults with a rate of 24% - 45%."

General Feline Distemper Symptoms:

Generally, feline distemper symptoms appear to be sub clinical (no visible distemper signs). In most cases, kittens may die without showing any signs and symptoms. Fever is an initial sign of feline distemper; with an elevation of the body temperature to104 – 107 degrees Fahrenheit. When cats are under 1 year of age, they are more likely to get distemper with symptoms such as anorexia (avoidance of food) and depression. During the first 2 days of the disease, distemper symptoms include depression and fever, which is often accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea. The cause of the vomiting has nothing to do with food, and is more a symptoms of the disease.

Severe dehydration is caused by the diarrhea and vomiting. Cats may sit next to their water bowls for hours but do not drink. They may also appear to be depressed. Deviation of body temperature due to dehydration results in hypothermia and in the most terminal of cases, septic shock is possible. Death may occur in kittens in first 5 days of the disease. Death in adult cats is usually due to septic shock or intra vascular coagulation in the blood vessels.

Systemic Feline Distemper Symptoms:

Cats who are under one year of age often have feline distemper symptoms that affect the gastrointestinal system and circulatory system as indicated below. Signs of nervous system problems may also be seen, particularly in kittens. Pregnant queens if are affected, will most likely have severe reproductive complications.

Symptomatic Treatment of Feline Distemper

Severe dehydration is the main concern in feline panleukopenia. It is treated with vigorous intravenous (IV) infusion of a balanced isotonic solution, which may be Ringer’s lactate solution containing calculated potassium supplements. The addition of a 5% glucose and vitamin B complex is highly recommended for hypoglycemia (reduced glucose level in blood) and for physiological enhancement. Oral administration of nutrients and water should be restricted as it may cause vomiting and irreversible cellular damage in gastrointestinal tract.

Anti–emetics or drugs used to control vomiting can be added to the infusion to control vomiting, similarly di-metronedazole is very effective in controlling diarrhea.

Antibiotics are recommended for secondary bacterial infections, but should only be used once dehydration is controlled; gentamycin e.g. should never be administered in dehydrated animals.

There is also a homeopathic remedy available for cats that is specifically formulated for panleukopenia. Panleuk-Free, contains ingredients that target the various problems associated with distemper symptoms including Ferrum phos. (inflammation), Arsen alb. (gastric disorders), Phosphorus (digestive health, exhaustion)and Baptisia (fatigue). Clinical support and additional information is available from the manufacturers site which can be reached via the link above.


The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health (Home Edition) 

Veterinary Clinician Manual (Royal Publishers UK. 1994)


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