Multiple cases of feline panleucopaenia virus, also known as “cat plague”, or cat parvovirus, were reported in stray kittens in the greater Melbourne area in early February. A similar outbreak occurred in Sydney last year (2017).

Feline parvovirus was a common disease in the 1960s and 1970s. Australia was one of the first countries to develop an effective vaccine.

FAQ for the current outbreak

What is Panleucopaenia and how is it spread?

Panleucopaenia is the “cat version” of canine parvovirus which is a life-threatening virus. The virus is found in the faeces, vomit and nasal secretions of infected cats and susceptible cats contract the virus by swallowing or breathing in the virus. It is a hardy virus and can survive in the environment for a long time. It can also tolerate freezing and some disinfectants. Because of this, most cats at some point in their life are exposed to this virus. An infected cat can spread disease for up to 6 weeks after infection.

What are the effects?

For 2 – 7 days after infection, the virus infects a cat’s lymph nodes, bone marrow and intestine.  In the bone marrow, the virus suppresses white blood cells hence the name panleucopaenia which means “all white cell shortage”. The virus can cause a secondary bacterial infection in the intestines which can rapidly lead to death. Treatment involves intensive care, fluid therapy and isolation.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms vary from cat to cat, and include general depression, listlessness, loss of appetite, vomiting, and/or diarrhoea. Dehydration ensues caused by vomiting and diarrhoea.

How can I protect my cat from it?

Standard cat vaccinations protocols include protection for this virus and even cats whose vaccination is slightly overdue should still be protected. We recommend checking with us and updating their vaccination if required. Rest assured that if your cats are up-to-date with their health checks and vaccinations, then they are immune to this virus and are unlikely to get any symptoms even if exposed. At Inner South Veterinary Centre we vaccinate cats against Feline Panleucopaenia using a triennial vaccine.

How prevalent is it?

Fortunately we have not seen any recent cases at Inner South Veterinary Centre, and are unaware of any cases in Canberra, However there were reported outbreaks in Sydney in 2017 and now in Melbourne in 2018. We want to keep your cats safe!

What should I do if think my cat could be affected?

Seek veterinary assistance if your cat shows any sign of illness. Make sure your cats is up to date with vaccinations…