Panleuk or Feline Distemper

by Elisa Black-Taylor

All dead except Midnight and Garfield

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

All dead except Midnight and Garfield

All dead except Midnight and Garfield Midnight-Sole survivor Shakespeare and Midnight Shakespeare the day before he died

Good day readers. The subject today is panleuk or feline distemper (Feline Panleukopenia virus). This is the saddest, most horrible and confusing story I've even had to write.

On Wednesday, July 20th, I rescued a litter of four kittens and their mother Marley. Marley is a 4 pound (yes, only 4 lbs) Maine Coon who had been separated from her litter roughly 11 days prior upon entering the shelter. She has mastitis, so her milk could have had bacteria in it. I was handed a bottle of Clavamox as I left with her, which I also gave the kittens.

The kittens were the most beautiful litter I've ever seen. We named the two tabbies Romeo and Juliet. One little gray kitty, identical to a baby Furby, we named Shakespeare because he appeared to sit and think a lot. The black kitty is named Midnight.

After arriving home with my new family I noticed the original email listing had listed 3 males and 2 females. One of the females was missing, both on the paperwork and from the carrier. So I emailed the shelter coordinator. She sent me a one word message. Panleuk? A lot of kittens lost their lives to this at the shelter earlier in the month. Still, mine looked so HEALTHY!

On Wednesday, July 27, I was holding Juliet and when I placed her on her blanket she fell over. Two hours later she was dead. Laura found Romeo dead under her bed.

Unfortunately I was at work and Laura had to deal with all of this alone. My friends donated $300 to take Marley, Shakespeare and Midnight to the vet the next morning. Thank You!

Everyone was sending me messages that it was Panluek and I was in a mess of trouble. You see, I'm really stupid on things like this. After the shelter had their outbreak in early July, they euthanized the young kittens and disinfected the shelter, I thought the danger was over. WRONG! It can live anywhere on dry surfaces from 6 months to 2 years and forever on wet surfaces.

I went online at the shelter page and just asked for anyone who had kittens with the same symptoms to contact me. So far I've heard from 5 people. I didn't realize I was starting a war.

I saw a new vet at a reputable clinic I used to use because my regular vet wasn't in. She spent over an hour on examining them. She said based on the shelter history of distemper and the drop in temperature and some diarrhea that she was certain we were dealing with distemper.

By the time three exams, two bottles of Clavamox, IV, Nutra-cal, three cans specialty food, and powdered kitten formula, we were close to the $300 raised.

Marley had black tar gunk coming out of her rectum from either the mastitis or the distemper. The vet was fairly certain she had thrown off the virus. Keep in mind she was in a cage with mastitis for at least a week with no treatment. Thankfully, she's been on Clavamox since the day we brought her home.

Midnight was doing best of all. He had a 103 degree fever which meant he was fighting it off. Shakespeare had a 97 degree temperature and was fading fast. He was given IV fluids and wasn't really happy about having a needle stuck in his back. He was actually improving until I made the mistake of going to sleep Saturday night. He died while I was asleep. So Laura dug another grave.

Think about this everyone. When I made my vet visit on Thursday, I exposed every cat that comes into that facility to whatever is killing my kittens. THIS IS SERIOUS! Every one of us who has rescued these kittens and made a vet visit has exposed every cat their cat came in contact with. One of my friends spent over $600 on a blood transfusion and the one transfused was the only kitten who lived. She believes her cat was exposed when taken to this shelter for a spay/neuter. That's how contagious this is!

I tried so hard with Shakespeare. He was on the Clavamox, he was eating a canned food for the gastro tract and he was taking in lots of kitty formula and fluids. We thought he was on the mend. He's even lost that glazed eye expression he had on Thursday.

The shelter has now euthanized another round of kittens. Yet they said my Coon kitties littermate was tested after death and did NOT die of Panleuk. As far as I know, no one has done a necropsy on any of the kittens who died there. If they have the results haven't been given to the rescuers and fosters. Yet they do not think my Coon kitties had distemper. I have the email saying I've been spreading lies about the shelter in bringing this out into the open. Kittens died of distemper shortly before I rescued mine. They say mine didn't yet more were euthanized this week. What can I say, I'm a mother. I've learned from experience if 20 children in a class has a certain virus, then if our own child gets sick that's probably what this child has also. It helps us prepare and treat. The same should hold true with kittens.

Losing Shakespeare has really done me in. I can no longer rescue. My home is infected. We've pulled up some of the carpet and have been advised to pull it all up. We've been disinfecting everything in sight. Disinfectant must remain on a surface for at least ten minutes to be effective.

None of the other cats are sick. None of the other kittens are sick. Hopefully their vaccinations are protecting them. And little Stitch and Furby are loving up to me wondering why I can't stop crying.

I've done some research and learned a few things I want to share. First of all, please read this article. It has a lot of helpful advice from someone who saved her kitty. My kittens were not eating, had a little diarrhea, not throwing up and their body temperature dropped as they faded. Their eyes also took on a glazed comatose look like someone about to pass away may get. They literally fell over from being weak. Death came soon after

I've also been told this is FIP, which scares me more than the Panleuk.

I've learned Tamiflu is useful in fighting feline distemper. I've learned the Parvo test can diagnose it in a cat. A lot of vets don't realize the Parvo test can diagnose feline distemper. It's all in the same virus family so it makes sense to me.

I'm going to purchase a cage to place any cat who so much as sneezes at me in. Keeping them quarantined in separate rooms hasn't been enough.

I've irritated the shelter I rescue from by going on their page and asking for anyone with similar kitten deaths to please contact me. Without naming the shelter, I'd like to invite Betty, Stephanie, Anna, Mandy and possibly Melissa since her kitty is fading and may be dead by now and her vet suggested euthanasia since he came from this shelter.

I understand kittens get sick and kittens die. This article is as much about a lack of communication as anything else. Wouldn't it have been a good idea to post a sign on the door? This is going to cause a domino effect, I can feel it. Because when people lose a kitten or a cat or two and can't afford vet bills, guess where these sick animals are going to go? THE SHELTER! I don't know about the rest of the readers here, but if I have sickness in my house such as the flu or another virus, I tell anyone who comes to the door.

This shelter has just celebrated its grand reopening. I'm only afraid local vets are going to make a fortune off of the public's lack of knowledge. Parents aren't going to quarantine a new cat or dog!

Yet I cannot end up in the middle of a lawsuit. I only hope this is over for the shelter and for those of us who trusted the situation was under control the first time. From what I've read, I'm afraid the actual workers are spreading the disease since it lives on clothing. Clothing must be changed and hands and arms washed well between touching one cat then another. And the U.S. is on a kick about washing everything in COLD water for energy conservation.

I'd like to add I love this shelter. They have the greatest staff in the world as far as trying to arrange rescue for these thrown away cats and dogs. Other than having to euthanize for these outbreaks, I'd estimate their euthanasia rate at under 30%, which is awesome. I just believe we should have been given more information. If a disease outbreak occurred of this magnitude, the CDC (Center Disease Control) would be right in the middle of it.

I'd also like to know if a necropsy has been performed on any of these dead kittens? Because if it ISN'T feline distemper, then what is it? There's so little time to react between first symptom and death. We had a two hour warning with Juliet. It's terrifying to know Midnight could be dead by morning. He's fine tonight, but with what we're dealing with that doesn't mean much.

For the record, this is the exact same thing that killed Sugar and Sweetie several weeks ago. Bella was the only survivor and is doing well.

Are there any vets or vet techs out there who can shed any light on this. What am I missing and what SHOULD shelters do?

I've always believed in shelter adoptions because these animals are so grateful and they KNOW you saved them. But at the cost of exposing every pet in your household to something you haven't even been told about? And I can't blame them. God only knows what would happen if each person who entered the doors was told "by the way, we lost "X" amount of kittens or puppies to a contagious virus." So what IS the answer?

What's really scary to me is this is one shelter. How many others have this going on? I'm afraid to even ask.



Note: The photo of all of them together was made the day they came home. Garfield isn't part of their litter. I did want to mention he's alive and well and thriving and grateful. He's been on so many antibiotics since he got here I really wasn't worried. The one of Shakespeare was made the day before he died. His eye had become infected but that was the least of his problems. We did get it open Saturday afternoon.

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Panleuk or Feline Distemper

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Oct 20, 2011
pepto saves parvo dogs-why not cats?
by: Katie Campbell

I just wanted you to know that pepto and kaopectate alternated full small syringes full every 4 hours saved half of a litter of 4 pitbull pups I rescued years ago. I also got sick w/ that virus...and it seems to reinfect people every 2 years.I rescued dogs and cats and then went on to have 2 sons. I was very sick while pregnant w/ my 1st, as it was during the dog/parvo situation.
These Dr's and vets are all like Nazi's in that they 1. don't care 2. make a lot of money off sick people and 4. no one admits the truth
Anyone who says I got sick from a pet is ignored. I was a nurse's aid and seen a lot of sick people...if your stomach hurts but your not puking...then your not "sick" These old people all got sick a lot but it was always considered either too much meds/not enough food or 2. too much food/ not enough meds...The problem is a lot worse than just animals... a lot of young people just died last year in Canada- called it a C-Difficile outbreak...which in my opinion is the same thing as human parvo...There is a lot of dead coyotes here on the beaches in Wisconsin...they don't clean up...and they are infecting our waters...that and the wolves...all these dogs are thick in Wisconsin the past 10 years...and if you go camping...You can end up sick w/ a migraine for 6 months- to a year like I did. They test for strains of viruses- leaving out the new strains and looking for the old to kill. We all have chronic wasting here in Wisconsin...which is actually Lyme disease- highly contagious- yet they never disinfect anything...hospitals, nursing homes, or the like. I was a housekeeper at a nursing home and was told it takes 8 min wet to kill stuff...yet if you wet floor that long it's frowned on...let alone disinfecting their personal stuff...So it could be done w/ sodium chlorate like they do in hospitals in Africa...yet America is run buy chemical industry...they are bound by mafia contracts- the whole state of Wisconsin uses peroxide only...not even bleach...There is also a super strong light wand that disinfects w/o wetting...they don't use those on fabric seats even...Now why do all waiting rooms at Dr's ect. have fabric seats that are Never disinfected if they don't want us sick to make more money?
So thanks for your time if you read all this, and look into that sodium chlorAte(no not salt), and also diatomacious earth- it is able to kill bedbugs and all parasites inside and out naturally...since I started drinking it(like clay in taste) stomach pains of 12 years have finally went away...It should be sprinkled on the bedding and house to keep the pesta away- lastly one more bit of helpful knowledge that they don't want us to know is that mites and bedbugs do spread typhus, and that earth is necessary to prevent them. Thanks and I'll answer any questions you have if you write back. Katie in Wisconsin

Aug 02, 2011
We sign papers
by: Elisa

Those who rescue sign papers stating the animals health isn't guaranteed. We know that risk. But its a lot different to hold back information. If we had all gotten a script of Tamiflu and started our kittens on it immediately they'd all likely be alive.

They say that dead kittens who have passed to the Rainbow Bridge are waiting at heavens gate when someone dies. Wonder how those kittens will feel about those who could have saved them simply by being honest about the disease. Will they be allowed to help judge those who condemned them to death simply by being silent?

Aug 02, 2011
I'm sorry
by: Rebecca

I'm truly sorry such an awful thing happened. The length of time you've known an animal has nothing to do with how much you love them. We who have furry families do understand your loss and sorrow with you.

And thank you for having the courage to share it with us. My family are on the other side of the world in NZ and Australia but disease is disease no matter where - and we all make it a policy to adopt from shelters not petshops. There are always so many animals who need a home and we need to be reminded they may have been exposed to something dangerous before they came to us.

Aug 02, 2011
Don't give distemper vaccination
by: Elisa

I keep reading DO NOT VACCINATE if animal has been exposed to the virus as it is a small dose of the virus in the vaccine. I think a lot of cats had the vaccine after exposure and that ballooned it.

Shakespeare tilted his head to the side a lot. Mine had a hard time getting their breath toward the end. Like a slight panting.

The shelter can't fix this. They would have to change clothes between handling one cat to the next. They won't do that. And the bleach must sit on a surface for ten minutes. Doubt if that is realistic either. I even cautioned my daughter on that one.

Furby has had his shots, but if for some reason he gets this, and we're doing all we can to keep him safe, THERE WILL BE HELL TO PAY AND I WILL NEED TO BE BAILED OUT OF JAIL. I CAN SWEAR ON MY MOTHERS GRAVE THAT WILL HAPPEN!!!!! Archie was afraid of me when someone crossed me badly and he experience what I can do just by wishing it. That's part of my empathic gift and I don't like to even admit I have it. You think you've experienced hell on earth. Don't bet on it. But whatever is done to me will come back thrice on whoever hurt me. And not informing me of this has drained me.I can give you names of several people who can verify this can and will happen. I did not hear anything about panleuk being in the next room. The test showed the littermate didn't die of that anyway.

My rescuing days are over too. Yvonne has asked me to take some of her cats as things get a little more back to normal. Yvonne has helped me and I'll do everything I can to help her.

Mandy were you aware Melissa Missy Kitty Harrington has a sick kitten from there that the vet wants to euthanize?

This is not the shelters fault. There's no way to prevent this or to stop this from happening again. But it would be nice to have been warned. Andrea was very busy the morning I rescued. She said "By the way Marley has mastitis and has been seperated from the kittens since they got here." I asked her if she had meds and she said the vet hadn't prescribed anything yet and handed me the Clavamox.

If I had allowed a cat to sit in a cage for over a week without meds I'd be arrested because failure to treat is a criminal offense. But then look at Elisa, who we call Lucy. She sat in a cage for 2 weeks after being hit by a car with a possible broken jaw and surgery was never arranged until chip in money was raised and I agreed to rescue her. An animal isn't worth helping until rescue has been confirmed. What kind of shitty logic is that?

I know there is nothing that could be done about it, but a shelter needs to decide to treat or euthanize. If I see one more photo of a bone sticking out of an injured cats body I'm going to scream.

I was pretty much told that rescuers won't touch a cat or kitten that has been exposed so I guess that's why all the secrecy. If we won't take them they did. If we do take them, all of our cats, our vets clients cats and our friends with cats we visit are all exposed.

Aug 01, 2011
Panleuk is here! Part 2
by: Mandy

I don't know the answer to this horrible situation. I wish the shelter would have said, 'Hey we've had an outbreak and think it's PanLeuk. You're kitties were hereat that time. Here's what to look for.' Easy you know??

Please spay and neuter so there aren't so many throw away pets for this virus to kill...

Good luck, Elisa. You're doing your best and these kittens were loved more by you in the few days you cared for them then their entire life at the shelter. You're awesome!!

Aug 01, 2011
Panleuk is here!
by: Mandy

I met Elisa through Furby on FB and we've kept tabs on each other on and off. When I read one of her posts that the shelter had killed a large number of kittens on July 8 because of an 'outbreak', I was horrified to realize that 3 of my foster kittens had been at the shelter overnight on July 6 for spay/neutering. See, I'm a foster mom and I raise kittens up til they're 2 pounds and ready to go for adoption... I brought this group back home though because the shelter was full and mine would not be pulled for adoption any time soon... I was going to adopt them out myself with the help of my local PetSmart.

My first kitten (Abby) died a week later, then Mr Madonna, then Jackie, and last (so far) Hershey. The symptoms were vague and different for everyone... Abby seemed to have a URI and died at the vet's office getting a breathing treatment. Mr Madonna also seemed to have a URI and was so tired he had to be euthanised. Jackie was fine and dead the next morning. Hershey was a heart breaker... we seperated her on Monday because she stopped eating... put her in a bathroom with a humidifier and syringe fed her AD vet food with Nurti-cal in it. She licked the syringe and seemed to feel okay. Her respiratory rate increased Tuesday and she died Wednesday of pneumonia (a secondary infection from the PanLeuk).

Peter was my blood transfusion kitty. He was throwing up and his last stool was a huge blood clot... so off to the vet! At the vet his blood count was 7... it's supposed to be between 35-50. I was given 2 options -- transfuse or euthanize. He was walking around and looking at me!! I called my husband and we decided to try the blood transfusion. I brought in one of my healthy cats (Stella) and they took blood from her and saved Peter. That was on July 23. Peter is now home and quarantined because he'll shed the virus for another 4-6 weeks. He is having neurological problems now... wobbly rear end, wide stance, trouble jumping, etc. The vet mentioned a possible spinal stroke but we may never know and he'll probably never be normal... but he's alive and happy.

So, now we wait... who will get sick next (I have 6 other foster kittens)? Will they get sick or have they been exposed and just had a lesser form?? Who knows?? All I know is my fostering days are over for atleast a year. This virus is nasty. Only bleach kills it and it can live on one piece of litter or a piece of kitty food for a year and be reactivated at any time!!

I learned alot at these kittens' expense... the importance of shots.... the importance of quarantine... that a shelter is going to deny, deny, deny....

Right now everyone is one Clavamox, Azithromycin, and Lysine. If anyone doesn't eat even one meal, off to the vet...

Aug 01, 2011
On the Distemper Outbreak
by: Paw-Paw John

I am so sorry for your tragedy. You did the best you could. You are not the first person to take home sick kittens, and with the way shelters work, you will not be the last. A friend of mine adopted two cats from the same shelter two weeks apart. Both died of distemper. Rather than trash the animal control system, I hope to share some facts your readers need to know:

ALWAYS TAKE YOUR NEW ANIMAL STRAIGHT TO THE VET - Have your new arrival thoroughly checked by a trusted vet. Have a blood panel and FIV/FLV test done along with a regular checkup. Get all required shots ASAP.

SPECIAL NOTE: A kitten up to 15 weeks old can falsely test positive for Feline HIV or Leukemia because of the antigens in the mother's milk. If you get a positive result, isolate your kitten and have it retested in about six to eight weeks.

Keep your pet isolated from any other pets for at least seven days. Observe your pet for any problems with balance, congestion, redness or swelling of the eye, lethargy, convulsions,or sudden weight loss. Get your pet back to the vet should any problems arise. Do not try to treat it yourself!

Get educated on the most dangerous and common cat ailments - as a responsible pet owner or rescuer, you need to be able to recognize when your pet is not well.

Finally, understand that the very nature of the shelter environment makes it a hotbed for the transmission of disease. No shelter, no matter how well ran, is going to publicly admit this, nor will they confirm how many animals die because of a poorly designed shelter system. Do not take any chances - be it from a shelter or a friend, get your pet checked by a vet!

I hope this information will help someone avoid what you have gone through. God bless you!

Aug 01, 2011
by: Michael

It is upsetting reading this. I am sorry to hear of your upset and the distress of losing your kittens. I am sorry for the kittens too.

The shelter's reaction seems to be defensive and not open enough.

Your first hand experience allows you to describe this horrible disease well.

Feline distemper acts fast and is highly contagious as you describe so it could be this disease. It sounds like it when cross checking symptoms with the various vet's books I have.

It would seem like good sense if the shelter did not distribute kittens to foster mums when there is a highly contagious disease at the shelter as it simply spreads the disease to other homes.

Am I missing something? Should the shelter have given you these kittens? It has put your other cats at acute risk of a fatal disease.

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