Symptoms of distemper in cats

Symptoms of distemper in cats

One of the small animal systemic disease is a Feline Distemper or Feline panleukopenia virus (Fpv). It is caused by a small, single-stranded deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) virus. Distemper in cat Parvo viral enteritis. It is highly contagious, life threatening intestinal viral disease which affects young age non vaccinated cats. It is fatal in neonates and young age (fading kitten syndromes) Kitten, pregnant cats, non vaccinated cats and cats with immune disorders are most likely to be infected. Because the blood cells are under attack, this virus can lead to an anemic condition, and it can open the body to infections from other illnesses—viral or bacterial.

Causes of distemper in cats

Feline parvo virus (Fpv) is the causative agent of distemper in cats. Fpv affect cats and other members of felidae as fox raccoons and mink. Feline parvo virus is related to canine parvo virus (parvoviridae)feline parvo virus is not communicable to dog or vice versa.

Transmission of distemper in cats

Infected cats excrete the virus in their secretion as stool, urine, blood and nasal secretion. So when susceptible cats contact with stoolblood, urine or nasal secretion of diseased animal become infected by the virus. The feline distemper virus is very resistant and can survive for long time reach to a year in the surrounding environment. So cats may become infected without direct contact with diseased cat. Food, dishes, bedding, cages or clothes of people who deal with infected cats may be a carrier for the virus.

Symptoms of distemper in cats

Most infections of the kittens (young cats) are sub-clinical and so actually ill with no warnings is what you get. Symptoms which may appear on diseased cat with distemper are:

  • Fever.
  • Anemia.
  • Vomiting.
  • Depression.
  • Weight loss.
  • Dehydration.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Cerebral hypoplasia.
  • Complete loss of interest in food.
  • Chin resting on floor for long period.
  • Some cats may hide themselves for a day or two days.
  • Diarrhea, bloody diarrhea (uncommon usually occurs in late stage of infection).
  • Neurological symptoms in those cats in which virus attack brain (lack of coordination).

According to the age of the diseased cat symptoms are classified to:

  1. Before 3 months and neonates.
    • Weak deplitated litters.
    • Fading kitten syndrome.
  1. Older kittens 3-4 months.
    • Sever gastroenteritis like parvo.
    • Pyrexia 41°C , bile stained persistent vomiting.
    • Sever diarrhea ( watery- bloody-mucoid).
  1. Adult cats and pregnant (sub-clinical).
    • Early embryonic resorption.
    • Fetal death.
    • Abortion and still birth.

Generally, distemper makes sever dehydration septic shock death in 1-2 days. The incubation period (the time from infection by the virus to the onset of symptoms) takes 5-7 days may reach to two weeks.

Diagnosis of distemper in cats

Differential diagnosis

  • Fading kitten syndrome.
  • Acute gastrointestinal toxicity (salmonellosis).
  • Septicemia.


Clinical signs appear on the infected cat may be similar to many diseases such as poisoning, enteritis or ingestion of foreign bodies, so to prevent miss diagnosis. Veterinarian will need to do a physical examination and some lab tests to help in diagnosis of distemper as:

  • Fecal Elisa Antigen test: This test detects parvo virus in stool and considered by some veterinarian to be accurate.
  • Complete blood count.
  • A feline leukemia virus (FeLV) test.
  • Urine analysis.

Treatment of distemper in cats

The aim of treatment

The affected cats will require immediate life saving treatment The major goal is to save the fluids level and balance of electrolyte in the body.

Treatment and medications

  • The treatment is basically supportive fluids are given to correct dehydration.
  • Prophylactic antibiotics are given for secondary infections control.
  • Anti-Emetics to stop vomiting.
  • Vitamin B and vitamins C.
  • Anti diarrhea drug is administrated.
  • Antipyretic drugs if fever is persistent.


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