The dreaded cat epidemic has many names. Veterinarians know them as
"Feline panleukopenia" or as "parvovirosis", colloquially terms like "feline distemper or "Feline plague" spreads. The dreaded disease is an infection with the Feline parvovirus (FPV), which mainly affects young cats and is not infrequently fatal.
The virus, which for example is transmitted from cat to cat via food, toys or feces, is remarkably robust, what the disease very contagious makes. If FPV enters the body, it multiplies within 18 to 24 hours in the mouth and throat area. Through the blood, the viruses then spread everywhere, attacking mainly ties whose cells multiply rapidly: lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow and intestinal mucosa.
Because parvoviruses cause a strong decrease of the white blood cells, infected cats develop a pronounced immunodeficiency, which opens the door to subsequent bacterial infections. It is possible to protect cats from panleukopenia – with a vaccination is best already in the first weeks of life.
Feline epidemic: symptoms
How badly an animal falls ill depends very much on its age and the condition of its immune system. Veterinarians distinguish different forms, which each cause different symptoms and run differently:
Peracute feline epidemic: This form affects
two to three month old cats, whose immune system is not yet particularly resistant at that age. Affected animals show few symptoms, but suddenly develop a fever and die of septic shock shortly after the onset of the disease. Acute feline parvovirus: Sick cats suddenly get a fever, which always subsides and flares up again, and they also appear apathetic and dull. They often spurn food, suffer from persistent vomiting shortly thereafter, and sometimes diarrhea that may later become bloody. Both quickly lead to a lack of fluids. The chances of survival are best if a veterinarian quickly initiates the appropriate treatment.
Subacute feline epidemic: This form affects adult cats with a strong immune system. Symptoms are barely noticeable – except for fatigue and diarrhea for a few days. The disease runs comparatively mild. There is no danger to life.
A special form, the "intrauterine feline plague", affects unborn kittens who are still in the uterus (uterus) of the mother animal are located. In case of infection in the first trimester of pregnancy, the fetuses die and are absorbed by the mother's body. In the middle of pregnancy, feline epidemics often cause miscarriages. If the fetuses are infected in the last third, i.e. shortly before birth, they are born with neurological disorders ("feline ataxia syndrome") or blind.
Vaccination against feline epidemic
Among other things, because the virus is so resistant, vaccination offers the best protection against feline epidemic disease. Veterinarians recommend that young cats be vaccinated against parvovirus for the first time at the age of six weeks at the earliest, eight weeks at the latest, and then twice more after three to four weeks each time. Later is enough annual booster. Also apartment cats should be vaccinated against feline epidemic, because humans can transmit the virus indirectly through clothing or shoes. For vaccinations – usually veterinarians administer a combination vaccine against cat rhinitis. Cat epidemic – cat owners must expect costs of 30 to 60 euros each. It is unlikely that feline epidemic will break out despite vaccination: today's vaccine is a so-called live vaccine, which contains attenuated pathogens and effectively protects against infection.
feline epidemic: When to the vet?
Often the condition of a cat infected with panleukopenia deteriorates suddenly and drastically. If a cat suddenly has diarrhea and high fever for no apparent reason or has to vomit repeatedly, a veterinarian should look at it. a fecal sample can be examined by quick test for parvoviruses. Otherwise there is a Blood test Information about whether the animal is infected: Especially the number of white blood cells is significantly reduced in feline epidemics.
Unlike some other infectious diseases, feline epidemic is not notifiable. Pet owners who suspect that their cat has feline epidemic should call the vet beforehand to discuss how they should behave so that no other animals are infected in the waiting room.
feline epidemic: treatment
First of all, it is important to stabilize the circulation of a sick cat: During vomiting and diarrhea, water and salts are lost, which increases the Electrolyte and fluid balance confuses. Infusions at the vet bring both back into balance. In addition, drugs against nausea and diarrhea help. For some time also Antibodies to support the immune system, or so-called interferons that slow down the virus. Sometimes a blood transfusion (blood transfusion) must be done.
Feline epidemic has the unpleasant side effect that it strongly weakens the immune system. Thus, the animal is susceptible to further diseases. Are already bacterial infections ( so called "super infections") before, the cat needs antibiotics.
Without treatment, 25 to 90 percent of infected cats die from feline epidemic disease. If the animal was previously in a good general condition and quickly gets into the hands of a veterinarian, the Chances of survival for parvovirosis but good. If a cat survives the disease, there are no late effects to fear.
The transmission of feline epidemic
Unfortunately, parvoviruses are very resistant: They survive for a while on toys and can be found, for example, in the food bowl after a sick animal has eaten from it. If an infected cat has Contact to others, an infection is very likely just by sniffing each other. In addition, cats excrete the virus in their intestines for up to six weeks after they have overcome the infection, even though they appear to be healthy again. Faeces lying around, which often contain large amounts of FPV, are infectious for months to years.
In dogs, parvoviruses cause similar symptoms as in cats – they can also be vaccinated against parvovirosis. However, a dog with feline epidemic can not be infected. Also a Transmission to humans is not possible in case of panleukopenia. However, humans can transmit feline epidemic disease to their indoor cats: through viruses from outside, which adhere to clothing or shoes.