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.
System; Diarrhea and vomiting are two main signs of
associated with the gastrointestinal system. Affected cats may vomit
severe stimulation of the gastric and intestinal epithelial nerves,
which are the nerves that line the intestines. Intestinal linings
appear hemorrhagic on autopsy, which means an escape of blood from the
vessels. Vomiting in feline distemper is not associated with eating or
Diarrhea results from reduced activity in the intestines and reduced absorption capacity. Anorexia, or avoidance of food, is another symptom associated with problems in the gastrointestinal system. In the initial stages of the disease, cats refuse to each. Cats also experience severe abdominal pain which is found when a veterinarian palpitates (feels) the abdomen. Reduced gastrointestinal activity results in dehydration, which is sometimes a fatal symptom.
& Lymphatic System; Panleukopenia itself refers to
a reduced number of white blood cells (WBC) in the lymphatic tissues,
which reduces the effectiveness of the immune system. With reduced
immunity, infections, such as bacterial infections and lethargic
behavior can set in. Immune system problems can persist during the cats
entire life, even after recovery from the panelukopenia infection.
Intravascular coagulation (blood clots) in the last stages of distemper in cats is another symptom associated with the circulatory system. The vascular fluids coagulate in the vessels causing severe blockages and problems in cellular physiology (the way cells function), which leads to death.
and Ophthalmic System; Kitten distemper symptoms may
nervous system problems including a lack of coordination and ataxia
(lack of muscle coordination). New born kittens may show a lack of
coordination and persistent lifelong nervous system problems. Kittens
may develop problems in the retina of the eye. Retinal dysplasia
(problem of retinal and photoreceptor cells in the eye) and
degeneration is common. This can also become a lifelong problem after
healing from the virus itself.
A pregnant queen, if are affected, and then recovers from feline panleukopenia, may still suffer with an abortion and embryonic mummification.
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.
Veterinary Clinician Manual (Royal Publishers UK. 1994)