Panleukopenia is a virus that decreases white blood cells, which normally fight infection. This causes the cat to be highly susceptible to other infections, and can be fatal.
An infected cat sheds the virus in all secretions (feces, vomit, urine, saliva, mucus). A cat can contract the virus through contaminated objects or through direct contact with an infected cat.
- General illness: loss of appetite, lethargy, fever
- Vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration
- Dull hair, rough skin: because of dehydration
Symptoms of other infections (like pus from the eyes and nose), because the immune system is suppressed
If you see any of the above symptoms, go to the vet immediately, because this virus can lead to collapse and death very quickly.
Many diseases show the same symptoms as panleukopenia, so your vet will do different tests to rule them out. Tests may include:
- CBC blood test: shows white blood cell levels
- SNAP Fecal ELISA test: normally used for canine parvovirus, but also used for panleukopenia
- Virus isolation
- PCR testing
- Antibody level measurement
There is no specific treatment for panleukopenia, as with most viruses. The goal of treatment is to keep the cat alive until its immune system recovers enough to fight the infection. Supportive care will include:
- Antibiotics: to control bacterial infections which occur because of the lack of white blood cells
- IV Fluid therapy: to treat the dehydration and shock
There is a vaccine available and is recommended with the basic feline vaccinations.
Keep in mind that after a cat recovers, it will shed the virus for 6 weeks. Therefore, you should disinfect contaminated objects with a bleach solution.
Kittens less than 8 weeks old do not have a good prognosis, but if they do survive the infection, they will be immune to this virus for life.
Adult cats that have been vaccinated and receive medical treatment have a good prognosis.