A recent article by Elisa Black-Taylor about an outbreak of feline panleukopenia (aka feline parvovirus, feline distemper) at the Hartnett County Animal Shelter got me thinking. The outbreak resulted in the euthanasia of all the cats in the shelter in order to prevent the spread of the infection (55 approx.). The virus which causes this disease is highly contagious.
The most common cause of sudden death in kittens and cats in shelters is by this virus. A disease this contagious and fatal (90% in kittens shortly after birth) needs to be treated with the utmost respect and vaccination of all cats on intake into shelters must be the cornerstone of prevention. In fact, Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine state that vaccination is “absolutely essential” in shelters.
Susan Shaddock tells us that Hartnett County Animal Shelter do not vaccinate incoming cats. Apparently they can’t afford to vaccinate. But it is essential. It must be done and if they can’t afford to vaccinate they can’t afford to run the shelter properly and therefore there must be a question mark as to whether the shelter should exist.
The vaccination protocol of cats for feline parvovirus in shelters is rigourous. All cats of four weeks of age and older should receive the vaccine. As I understand it is a combination vaccine, FVRCP, which covers the cat cold and parvovirus.
The vaccine should be given to cats regardless of “intake status”, which means from any source. It should be given immediately without any delay. Even a delay of one day can increase the risk of infection significantly.
Further, all kittens should be re-vaccinated every two weeks while in the shelter until they are five months of age. This is because maternally derived antibodies (antibodies received from the mother in the womb) can interfere with the vaccination in kittens less than four months old.
In addition, juvenile cats should be segregated from adults. Kittens should not be housed with adult cats. Also, an extra strategy to prevent the spread of parvovirus infection is to move kittens from the shelter into foster as soon as possible after intake provided the foster carer’s housing does not have a history of parvovirus-infected cats.
I have simply touched on one or two points in this article. I am indebted to Maddie’s Fund for some of the above information. This is a big subject requiring further reading.
Finally, the veterinarian associated with the Hartnett County Animal Shelter, is Dr Ralph Houser (either retained or visiting). His background (as stated on the internet) is less than attractive in my opinion. He is known as the gas chamber salesman. In fact he manufactured and sold gas chambers for shelter animals. This of course was during the time when they were more acceptable. They are positively unacceptable today but he is alleged to have misdiagnosed feline parvovirus in this instance. Susan says that he came to the shelter and diagnosed by simply looking at the cats.
Maddie’s Fund also refers to diagnosis. I’d like to make a quick note about it here on this page. This is because the veterinarian either retained or employed by the shelter allegedly misdiagnosed parvovirus. It is said that the diagnosis of this disease should be performed using diagnostic testing using a “point of care test kit” for the detection of parvovirus antigens in faeces. This is a cost-effective and quick method to diagnose parvovirus. The test kits are: IDEXX, AGEN, Synbiotics. One reason why a test kit is required is because other diseases mimic feline parvovirus. It would appear that Dr Houser performed his duties too casually and without sufficient care.