by Elisa Black-Taylor
All dead except Midnight and Garfield
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. http://www.janegarrison.com/blog/?p=43. 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.