Panleukopenia in kittens: what vaccines can be used to prevent distemper

Panleukopenia (feline distemper) is a dangerous infectious disease that in most cases is fatal. Small kittens aged 1.5 months to a year are especially susceptible to infection. This period is considered the most dangerous, so owners need to take the necessary preventive measures in time. The only way to protect pets from infection is distemper vaccinations for cats. Let's find out which vaccines are best used to prevent infection in kittens.

The causative agent of the disease

Panleukopenia in kittens develops after a DNA virus of the Parvoviridae family enters their body. The diameter of this pathogen ranges from 12 to 24 nm. The absence of its own shell does not allow the virus to multiply outside the cells of the macroorganism, which makes it highly contagious. The cells of the intestine and lymphoid tissue are most susceptible to damage. The virus also easily penetrates the placental barrier, which explains the intrauterine infection of kittens from a mother infected during pregnancy or from an unvaccinated mother.

The pathogen is very stable in the external environment. It can withstand heat up to 56°C for 1 hour. The virus remains active when exposed to most disinfectants, including phenols, ether, acids and chloroform.

Prevention of panleukopenia in cats.

Now you already know the correct answer to the question: “ Does distemper occur in cats ?” And you know how dangerous this disease is and how easily an animal can become infected with it. It's time to talk about what depends on you, the owner of a furry miracle, what actions you should take to keep your pet alive and well.

Follow the following preventive instructions:

  1. Vaccination. So, today the most effective preventive measure for feline distemper is vaccination. Now there are a large number of vaccines on the market and the doctor will offer you the one that will be most affordable for you and will suit your animal well. Weak, sick, pregnant and lactating cats should not be vaccinated. But kittens can and should be vaccinated, since they are most susceptible to this disease. The first vaccination for a kitten is prescribed at 1.5 - 2 months. Repeated vaccination (re-vaccination) is done after 20 days (3-4 weeks after the first vaccination). Subsequently, vaccination should be done once a year, after deworming (approximately 14 days before vaccination). If you vaccinate your cat annually, according to the regimen prescribed by a veterinary clinic specialist, your animal will develop a stable and strong immunity to this disease.
  2. Strengthen your cat's immune system. Provide the correct diet for your animal, twice a year (in winter and spring) enrich the animal’s diet with vitamin complexes, especially paying attention to vitamins A and C, which are excellent antioxidants and will help your pet to be healthy and active.
  3. Make sure that your pet does not come into contact with stray cats or sick animals. Wipe well, or better yet, wash the soles of your shoes when you enter the house. Remember, you yourself can bring the virus into your home and thereby expose the life of your pet to great danger.
  4. Get your pet checked regularly at a veterinary clinic.

Routes of transmission of the virus

Transmission of the panleukopenia virus (distemper) in cats occurs predominantly through the fecal-oral route. The pathogen enters the body of animals through direct contact with infected care items, urine and feces of sick cats.

A high risk of contracting distemper during fetal development exists in kittens whose mother was ill during pregnancy.

The causative agent of panleukopenia is carried by fleas - they are transmitted to cats through bites.

Important! There are strains of canine parvovirus that cause distemper in cats.

Cats that do not leave city apartments or houses also need to be vaccinated against distemper. They can become infected through contact with a person's shoes or clothing, which can carry the virus into the room.

Main points of cat vaccination

Distemper in cats is an incurable disease with a high mortality rate. The most sure-fire way to protect your pet from infection is routine vaccination. For vaccination, a modern and highly effective vaccine is used, which is well tolerated by the animal’s body and contributes to the rapid development of immune protection. Proper preparation for immunization will help prevent side effects of vaccination in cats. Before the procedure, furry cat owners must definitely show their cat to specialists for a detailed examination and to rule out whether he has any contraindications to the administration of the vaccine solution.

The first time a kitten must be immunized at the age of 8-10 weeks, when it loses its maternal immunity. 10 days before the procedure, you need to carry out deworming to get rid of possible helminthic infestation. The second injection is given 2-3 weeks after the first injection. Such measures allow you to form an immune response against a dangerous virus, lasting up to 12 months. At the age of one year, the cat is indicated for revaccination, which is then carried out annually.

In parallel with the distemper injection, you need to get a rabies vaccination every year. It is better to vaccinate an animal before it reaches 4 months, until its permanent teeth erupt. To obtain reliable immunity from several viruses, a cat is vaccinated with a complex vaccine that protects against two or more infections at once. It is better to ask your veterinarian about the nuances of such drugs. Vaccination and revaccination should be performed using the same vaccine suspension.

Mandatory actions before vaccination:

  • preventive removal of worms from cats 10 days before the procedure;
  • medical examination of the cat with the exception of contraindications for vaccination.

After vaccination, a quarantine of one month is recommended. The quality and effectiveness of the inoculated immunity will depend on it. All this time, the kitten is prohibited from contacting potentially infected animals, that is, yard cats or representatives of the species without vaccinations. It is better for cat owners to avoid contact with possible sources of infection (places where animals unprotected from the virus live).

The distemper vaccine is given in the withers area. Only certified and high-quality vaccines with the correct expiration dates can be administered. After the injection, the veterinarian enters information about the vaccination into the animal’s passport, attaches a label from the ampoule with the used vaccine, and indicates the time and date of the cat’s vaccination. All entries must be sealed. Such a passport is necessary for cat owners who often travel with their pets or constantly move.

The cost of vaccination is influenced by several factors:

  • place of immunization (home or veterinary clinic);
  • origin of the vaccine (foreign drugs are many times more expensive than domestic solutions);
  • reputation, type and location of the clinic (veterinarians in big cities have a more respectable price list).

More often, owners vaccinate kittens in specialized clinics, but some of them prefer to call a veterinarian at home. Then the person will have to additionally pay for calling a doctor and, perhaps, even take care of his delivery. The cheapest option is to purchase the vaccine for vaccination at a veterinary pharmacy and administer the drug to the animal yourself at home.

Despite the absolute safety of the virus for humans, it is very important to vaccinate cats against it. It is imperative to visit a doctor with your animal annually, which will allow you to objectively assess the condition of the furry patient and carry out preventive vaccination.

Development of the disease

Depending on age, physiological state, and body resistance, panleukopenia in cats can manifest itself as enteral and reproductive syndrome. In the first years of life, regular vaccinations against distemper in cats lead to the fact that adult cats are asymptomatic.

Enteritic form

The development of the enteritic form of panleukopenia in cats occurs in several stages.

At the first stage, which lasts from 18 to 24 hours after oral penetration of the virus into the animal’s body, the infection begins to multiply in the lymphoid tissue of the nasopharynx.

Next, the pathogen penetrates the bloodstream and within 2-5 days spreads through tissues with a high coefficient of mitotic activity. The virus enters the bone marrow and suppresses the production of immune factors, which leads to the development of leukopenia.

In parallel, the virus multiplies in the cells of the mucous membrane of the small intestine, which causes their death. Clinically, this manifests itself as acute diarrhea in an adult cat or kitten.

Reproductive form

If the owner did not immunize the cat against distemper before pregnancy, then the lack of vaccination can provoke a reproductive form of panleukopenia during gestation.

The consequences of the disease depend on the duration of pregnancy.

Periods of illnessClinical symptoms
Initial periodDeath of fruits followed by their resorption
Middle periodMummification of fetuses, miscarriages
Late periodDevelopment of anomalies incompatible with life after birth (hydrocephalus, cerebellar hypoplasia); atrophy of the optic nerves or retina

Important! If resorption (resorption) of embryos occurs in the first 7-10 days of pregnancy, then it does not pose a threat to the mother. Later fruit death requires medical intervention, as it leads to the development of intoxication and purulent inflammation.

Preparation and contraindications

In order for vaccination against panleukopenia to take place with minimal risks and maximum benefits for the cat, it is necessary to make proper preparations for the procedure:

  • Deworming. 10–12 days before the vaccination date, it is necessary to get rid of parasites, in particular worms. The presence of such a problem significantly increases the load on the immune system, which will create a so-called breakthrough of post-vaccination protection - an animal with critically reduced immunity will be practically defenseless against any infectious danger. Even if it is not definitely established that the cat has worms, it is still necessary to give the drug (Prazid, Drontal, Azinox, etc.) for prevention.
  • No stress. The burden on the immune system combined with stress is a difficult test, especially for a kitten. Therefore, if there has been a change of residence and there has been a long trip, it is better to postpone vaccination for 1–2 weeks, giving the animal the opportunity to adapt normally to the changed conditions.

You should not go for a distemper vaccination if:

  • the cat is pregnant - the introduction of the virus can provoke developmental disorders of the nervous system in the offspring;
  • less than two weeks have passed since the course of antibiotics;
  • The kitten is actively teething;
  • less than a month has passed since the infectious disease;
  • An elevated temperature was detected before vaccination;
  • less than three weeks have passed since surgery or less than a month is left before it.

It is worth rescheduling scheduled vaccinations if your pet is pregnant

Remember, before vaccination, the cat must be absolutely healthy; any signs of illness should alert the owner and make him think about the advisability of vaccination at this very moment.


If the owners do not have time to vaccinate the kitten against distemper in time, then at the age of 2-4 months in babies the disease is very severe and is expressed by the following clinic:

  • frequent vomiting;
  • watery diarrhea;
  • an admixture of blood and mucus in the stool;
  • lethargy, inactivity;
  • fever;
  • discharge from the nasal cavity and eyes;
  • signs of dehydration.

On the first day after infection with panleukopenia, the kitten experiences a sharp increase in temperature above 39°C. After a day, the temperature drops to normal, and after 48 hours it increases significantly again.

The outcome of plague is determined by the degree of immune suppression. If a significant volume of lymphoid tissue is damaged, the body is unable to resist infection and death occurs.

The reproductive form of distemper in cats that were infected during pregnancy, but have not previously received a distemper vaccine, is manifested by abortion, death, or fetal abnormalities.

What could be the consequences?

Vaccinations against distemper involve introducing a small amount of virus into the cat's body to actively produce antibodies. That is, the animal must have mild panleukopenia. The consequences of vaccination can be expressed in increased drowsiness of the kitten, an increase in its body temperature, decreased appetite, and an allergic reaction. Sometimes there is severe pain at the injection site. Such phenomena are not always present. Often the kitten simply becomes less playful.

It is important to quarantine the cat for two weeks after each vaccination. The animal is not allowed outside, is not taken to exhibitions, and is not allowed to come into contact with unvaccinated cats and dogs. It is necessary to prevent hypothermia and increased physical activity of the purr.

Treatment and prognosis

Prevention of dehydration and hypovolemic shock is crucial in the treatment of panleukopenia. Therefore, first of all, the veterinarian prescribes infusion therapy, which consists of intravenous or subcutaneous administration of isotonic solutions. In some cases, it is advisable to combine them with blood or plasma transfusions.

The following are used as symptomatic treatment for distemper in cats:

  • antiemetics (Cerucal);
  • antispasmodics (Papaverine);
  • cardiac medications (Caffeine benzoate);
  • anti-inflammatory and antisecretory drugs.

Antibiotics are prescribed to prevent the development of pathogenic bacterial microflora.

Important! All medications, their dosage and course of treatment must be selected by a veterinarian individually for each animal.

Treatment of the reproductive form of panleukopenia in cats depends on the pathology. If the fetus is mummified or reabsorbed at a late stage of development, surgical intervention is required. If the decomposition of embryos leads to the development of purulent inflammation, then systemic antibiotic therapy is used, as well as local irrigation with antibacterial solutions. If pyometra occurs or inflammation spreads to neighboring organs and tissues, surgeons resort to removal of the uterus or complete castration of the cat.

There is no treatment for cerebellar hypoplasia and other severe neurological disorders in newborn kittens that were caused by a virus during fetal development.

The high mortality rate (from 65 to 90%) of panleukopenia in kittens does not allow veterinary specialists to make a favorable prognosis until complete recovery. This is due to the fact that a large viral load can provoke irreversible processes in the bone marrow and lymph nodes at any stage of the disease.

Features of treatment

The sooner treatment for feline distemper is started, the higher the chances of a complete recovery of the animal. One of the important measures for this disease is complete isolation of the pet, which prevents the spread of the virus and infection of other animals in the house.

Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the animal requires several days of intensive care, as well as several weeks of recovery. Animals are prescribed supportive therapy to cope with the symptoms of severe intoxication:

  • intravenous infusions to replenish fluid lost by the animal’s body;
  • vitamin therapy;
  • intravenous administration of solutions of amino acids, fats and carbohydrates;
  • antibacterial therapy with broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Symptomatic treatment is also prescribed to alleviate the condition - antiemetics, gastroprotectors.

In severe cases, a blood transfusion is performed to the animal, and when shock develops, the use of corticosteroid hormones is indicated.

Interesting to know
If the disease was detected in the early stages, the animal can be injected with hyperimmune serum and globulins. But such treatment is not effective when the virus spreads throughout the body.

Animals that survive feline distemper recover completely and retain lifelong immunity to the virus. In cases where there were other cats in the same room with a sick animal, they are injected with serum and assigned a 21-day quarantine. If symptoms of the disease do not appear, vaccination is indicated.

All things that a sick cat has come into contact with should be mercilessly thrown away, or better yet, burned. The room in which the animal was located requires mandatory disinfection measures.

Vaccine for vaccination

All vaccines are divided into 2 types:

  • Monovalent. They can only protect against one virus.
  • Polyvalent. They develop immunity against several diseases. The animal tolerates such vaccinations more difficult than monovalent ones.

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The drug "Feligen"

This is a complex vaccine that works against plague, calcivirosis, viral rhinotracheitis and herpesovirus. Immunization is given to cats at 2 months, and then repeated a month later. The drug is administered to animals in a dose of 1 ml, regardless of the pet’s body weight. The vaccine for cats "Feligen" is contraindicated for use during the animal's pregnancy, during the molting period, as well as for a kitten when changing its milk teeth.

Vaccine "Nobivak"

This is the name of the drug by ear. The composition is recommended for vaccination against plague. The vaccine consists of a liquid and a dry component, which are mixed before the procedure. The medicinal solution is injected subcutaneously into the cat's withers starting at 8 weeks of age. The Nobivak vaccination is re-administered a month later, and then repeated annually for preventive purposes using 1 dose.

Dr. Jean Dodds from Canada has done research based on which she claims that animals do not need repeated vaccination, since immunity from most viruses lasts for many years, and sometimes for a lifetime.

Vaccine "Vangard"

Vaccine against plague, parainfluenza, paravirus and leptospirosis. Immunity to diseases is developed 21 days after vaccination and persists throughout the year. The Vanguard immunization procedure is repeated annually. The treatment solution is administered intramuscularly, using 1 dose of the drug, regardless of the pet’s body weight.

Is it necessary to do

Even domestic cats that do not go outside must be vaccinated.

The panleukopenia virus is tenacious and easily transmitted . The owner can bring it from the street on his shoes, entering into the vomit or feces of an infected animal.

This disease is not dangerous for humans, but a pet is 100% likely to become infected.

The disease has a complex course and high mortality, especially among kittens and old cats.

Treating the disease is difficult and expensive. Vaccination against panleukopenia is the only way to protect your pet from severe disease.

An unvaccinated animal cannot be taken with you on a trip or taken outside the country. This is another argument in favor of vaccinations.

How and when do they do it?

According to the official instructions, the liquid component of the vaccine is injected into a bottle with a powdery substance using a syringe. Then shake well so that the dry component dissolves and draw the finished solution back into the syringe. The needle insertion site is wiped with alcohol or other disinfectant. The distemper injection is administered intramuscularly from the inside of the thigh, but it can also be injected between the shoulder blades or under the skin in the withers area. After the injection, the injection site is massaged for a few seconds. Vaccinations against distemper for cats are done after the animal reaches 2 months of age and is repeated after 30 days, unlike dogs, for example, a shepherd dog is first immunized at 3 months, and then again a year.

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