Feline Distemper, also known as Cat Plague or Distemper in Cats, is caused by the Feline Panleukopenia Virus, a viral infection that affects both wild felines and domesticated cats. It is highly contagious and most likely fatal to any affected feline. Panleukopenia is spread primarily with contact from an infected animal’s feces, bodily fluids, and also parasitic fleas. Not just passed along by the cats themselves, ferrets and minks can spread the disease over long distances by contact with food dishes, bedding, and even shoes and clothing of human handlers of animals infected. Distemper in Cats is not contractable or contagious to humans.
Distemper in Cats works by attacking the gastrointestinal tract of a feline, which causes ulcers and sloughing of the epithelium in the intestines. The result of this is severe dehydration, bloody diarrhea, anemia, malnutrition, and more often than not, death. The cat’s white blood cells are decreased in numbers which compromises the immune system. Platelet and Hematocrit counts are also decreased. Veterinarians will use these decreased counts to diagnose Feline Distemper in your cat, though other symptoms like, lethargy, depression, fever, loss of appetite, and lack of skin elasticity will aid in a proper diagnosis. Additionally, many cats will resort to biting themselves in the lower back, back legs and tail. Some affected felines will sit at their water bowl for hours without drinking much. Septic Shock is a development in most terminal cases. Most Feline Distemper deaths incur due to dehydration and secondary infections which result from diarrhea.
Feline Distemper will usually require a treatment that is aggressive if you want your cat to survive. Distemper in cats is very progressive and is known to kill felines in less than a day. Treatment options include intravenous fluids for dehydrated felines, whole blood transfusions, and injections of antibiotics and vitamins that will prevent septicemia.
If a cat survives Feline Distemper, complications may still rise later, though these odds aren’t very high. Myocarditis and Cardiomyopathy may occur, though those chance are fairly rare. In the long-run, if you see the warning signs for Feline Distemper in your cat early enough, the chances of a full recovery for your cat are fairly good.