FELINE PANLEUCOPAENIA

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FELINE PANLEUCOPAENIA

Nature of the disease
Feline panleucopaenia (FPL) is a widely distributed virus disease, closely related to canine parvovirus type 2, of cats that produces characteristic white blood cell changes. It can be associated with high mortalities in young cats.
Classification
SPC List D disease
Susceptible species
All members of the family Felidae are susceptible, as well as Procyonids (racoons) and Mustelids such as mink and ferrets.
Young cats are usually most commonly affected, although cats of any age may be affected if they lack immunity.
Distribution
FPL is found worldwide.
Clinical signs 
There is wide variation in the severity of clinical disease from sub-clinical to peracute fatal disease. A majority of unvaccinated adult cats in urban settings test positive and sub-clinical infections appear common. Peracute disease usually occurs in young kittens (less than 6 months) — there is sudden onset of depression, vomiting and death within 12-24 hours.Usual signs of FPL infection are:
  • Fever
  • Profound depression
  • Rapid and severe weight loss
  • Dehydration followed by:
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhoea follows 1-2 days later
    • Abdominal pain is usually present.

In untreated cases a mortality rate of nearly 90% may occur. This can be reduced to less than 30% in cats over 6 months if vigorously treated.

Post-mortem findings 
The following may be found:
  • Cat will be in poor condition
  • Severe enteritis
  • Jaundice
Differential diagnosis 
With peracute disease owners often suspect poisoning. Various other conditions can present with signs resembling FPL:
  • Intestinal foreign bodies (especially when accompanied by fever)
  • Acute septicaemia
  • Gastro-enteritis
  • Acute toxoplasmosis
  • Feline leukaemia virus infection
Specimens required for diagnosis 
FPL can be suspected based on clinical signs, age, vaccination history and careful examination.
Whole blood samples should be collected for a haemogram — leucopaenia is one of the most consistent findings with FPL
Transmission   
FPL can be transmitted by direct contact or via contaminated fomites such as dishes, bedding, cages etc. During the acute phases of the disease, virus is found in most body fluids and discharges ( blood, faeces, urine, saliva and vomit).

The virus is very stable and resistant to inactivation and remains infectious at room temperature in contaminated premises for at least a year.

Fleas and other insects may be mechanical vectors.
Recovered cats may be carriers, shedding virus in faeces, urine and possibly the pharynx for some time.

Risk of introduction   
FPL virus is widely distributed in cat populations, stability of the virus and the existence of a ‘carrier’ state means that the risk of introducing the virus with importations of cats is high. 
Control / vaccines  
Aggressive supportive treatment can significantly reduce the mortality associated with FPL:
  • Fresh whole blood transfusion to provide some leukocytes
  • Fluid therapy to counteract dehydration
  • Antibiotics to counter secondary bacterial infections
  • Anti-emetics and anti-cholinergic to control severe vomiting and diarrhoea
  • B vitamins until the cat starts eating again

Both killed and modified live vaccines are available. Maternal antibodies will initially protect kittens but these gradually decline during the first 16 weeks of life. Kittens should be vaccinated at 9-10 weeks, repeated at 14-16 weeks (an extra vaccination at 11-12 weeks may be necessary with the killed vaccine) In catteries or high risk areas kittens may need to be vaccinated every 2 weeks starting at 6 weeks of age up to 16 weeks.
Annual re-vaccination is recommended for maximum protection.
Exotic (zoo) cats can be successfully immunised with modified live vaccines.

References
  • Feline Panleukopeniza, In Merck Veterinary Manual, National Publishing Inc. Eight ed, 1998, Philadelphia, p 562-564