Feline Distemper Symptom
Acute illness is apparent very quickly and the course of the disease can be very short. From infection to death can be 3-5 days. Sometimes the person keeping the cat may not be fully aware that a kitten is ill before she/he dies as the disease acts so quickly.
Transmission of disease to kitten in the womb:
- Kittens may develop cerebellar hypoplasia (underdevelopment of the cerebellum of the brain). The symptom of this is a loss of balance, head tremor (from 2 weeks of age). No cure but it doesn’t get worse. See video below.
In an adult who has caught the disease the early signs are:
- Loss of appetite
- Severe apathy
- Extreme depression
- Fever (105°F)
- May give impression cat is poisoned
- gastrointestinal symptoms:
- Vomiting repeatedly and immediately after drinking (some cats do not vomit before death
- Thirsty but unable to drink
- Bringing up yellow stained bile that is frothy
- Cat clearly suffering pain (crying in pain and crouching, with the head a few inches above the water bowl)
- Dehydration (skin on back of neck doesn’t go back to previous position when pulled)
- Vomiting blood suddenly happens sometimes
- bone marrow severely depressed – lowering of white blood cell count
Later feline distemper symptoms:
- Diarrhea – stools are yellow or streaked with blood or watery, copious and foul smelling (some cats do not demonstrate this feline distemper symptom before death
- main cause of death for cats that are not treated is blood poisoning – bacterial infection of the blood stream (scepticemia)
- another cause of death is dehydration (due to loss of fluid from vomiting and diarrhea)
Transmission of the Disease
This is a serious and widespread disease. The word “distemper” would seem to be misleading as there is no relation to distemper in dogs. It is a highly contagious disease and easily transmitted from cat to cat. It can be transmitted by people on their hands, clothing and feet. It is spread by direct contact with infected animals (cats, mink, ferrets, raccoons and wild cats) and their secretions (e.g. feces). As the virus is “hardy” it can survive in carpets, crevices and furniture for over a year.
The virus is more common in kittens before being vaccinated.
Although the virus can be killed by:
- Sodium Hypochlorite (commonly called bleach) diluted 1 part bleach and 9 parts water
- Disinfectants such as Virkon or Parvocide. These are both available at Aug. 2008 and of the two Virkon seems to be more easily obtainable
Intensive veterinary care. Important to diagnose the disease as early as possible. Measures include:
- Fluid replacement (rehydration) to replace fluids lost by diarrhea and vomiting
- Keep warm
- Blood transfusions occasionally
- Supplemental nourishment
Kittens have a high death rate. Adults usually recover with prompt treatment. Adults can be carriers.
Vaccination is the most effective method.
- first vaccination at 6-8 weeks
- second vaccination at 10-12 weeks
- annual booster vaccinations or bi-annually (there is post on cat vaccination recommendations)
- for high risk kittens: vaccination at 6 weeks and every 2 weeks until 16 weeks
- avoid introducing a kitten into a place where the disease has occurred until 6 months after the occurrence.
- Feline Panleukopenia (“Panleukopenia” means depression of the various kinds of white blood cells)
- Feline Infectious Enteritis (FIE)
Photo – Feline distemper symptom : veterinarian’s surgery – published under a creative commons license – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License
Feline distemper symptom – Sources:
- The Veterinarian’s Guide to Your Cats Symptoms – Drs Garvey, Hohenhaus, Houpt, Pinckney, Wallace and Elizabeth Randolph
- Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook – Drs Carlson and Giffin
- Wikepedia for definitions
- Veterinary Notes for Cat Owners – Dr Turner and Jean Turner VN