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Panleukopenia in cats: what is it?
Panleukopenia in cats: what is it?

Feline Panleukopenia is known by several names, namely Feline Gastroenteritis, Feline Parvovirus or Cat Distemper. But let's see in detail what is Panleukopenia in cats.

What is Panleukopenia

The virus of Feline Panleukopenia (FPV), is a highly contagious infectious disease that possesses a very high mortality rate and which mainly affects young and unvaccinated cats. This virus mainly affects the cells of the intestinal tract, bone marrow and skin.

The name Panleukopenia comes from the Greek and means lack of white blood cells. The FPV virus, in fact, kills the cells of the immune system of the cat. For this reason, it can be because of anemia and expose the body to the development of viral or bacterial infections due to other diseases.


The virus of Panleukopenia is extremely resistant and can survive in the environment even for years. Kittens between two and six months of age represent the subjects most at risk of developing the most severe symptoms of the disease. In addition to kittens, pregnant cats and cats with compromised immune systems are also more susceptible to it. In adult cats, symptoms are usually mild or may even go unnoticed. Fortunately, cats that manage to survive FPV infection become immune to the recurrent development of the disease.

How the contagion of Panleukopenia occurs

Panleukopenia is caused by the parvovirus and is transmitted to cats via direct contact with infected blood, feces, urine, body fluids and secretions (such as saliva and nasal secretions). Due to its high resistance in the environment, the virus can also be transmitted by means of environmental exposure through the shared use of bowls of water and food, contaminated objects such as kennels, clothes and shoes, or through people who have not washed their hands properly after coming into contact with infected cats. If the mother cat is infected, the kittens can get the disease through the uterus or through breast milk. The virus is transmitted easily and quickly, especially in environments where many cats live, such as catteries, pet shops, shelters and cat colonies.

What are the symptoms of Panleukopenia


There symptomatology of the disease can vary between kittens and adult cats. In kittens, in fact, the symptoms are usually more severe, while in adults they are lighter, and, at times, can even go unnoticed.

The main symptoms of Panleukopenia are:

  • He retched
  • Diarrhea with possible presence of blood
  • Dehydration and consequent loss of skin elasticity
  • Weight loss
  • High fever
  • Anemia
  • Poor condition of the coat
  • Depression or apathy
  • Severe loss of appetite
  • Tendency to hide
  • Neurological symptoms such as lack of coordination and seizures

Often, cats with panleukopenia can be prone to other infections due to their weakened immune systems, and develop symptoms such as purulent discharge from eyes and nose.

Treatment of Panleukopenia

Infected cats need immediate care and often hospitalization. The first main goal of treatment is to restore the levels of body fluids and electrolyte balance. Specific treatment depends on the severity of the disease, but is likely to include the recovery for several days in a room of isolation, so as to prevent the contagion of other animals.

Once the cat is back home, it will be necessary to isolate him from other cats until he is completely healed. This process could take up to 6 weeks. Panleukopenia can have particularly severe effects on physical and mental health for this reason, cats need great affection and comfort during the healing period.

Prevention of Panleukopenia

The virus can settle on a large number of surfaces, which is why the maximum hygiene to prevent transmission. However, due to its resistance, traces of the virus can remain in even the cleanest environments for up to a year resistant to common disinfectants. Keep in mind that cats who have already developed the virus become immune to the recurrence of the same, but the contaminated objects can in any case transmit the virus to other specimens. It is therefore necessary to follow the advice of the veterinarian regarding home disinfection, the administration of drugs and the isolation status of the infected cat.


Vaccination against Panleukopenia feline is important for all cats. The vaccine against Panleukopenia, as we saw in the article "Kitten vaccinations: when to get them?", Is in fact included within the trivalent vaccine mandatory for all cats. The trivalent vaccine also includes that against Rhinotracheitis and Calicivirosis. In kittens it is normally given from 8 weeks of age and is followed by 2 calls at the twelfth and sixteenth week of life. Subsequent calls are recommended every 1-3 years, depending on the environment in which the cat lives.