Overview: Feline panleukopenia virus (FPV) infects all felids as well as raccoons, mink and foxes. This pathogen may survive in the environment for several months and is highly resistant to some disinfectants.
Infection: Transmission occurs via the faecal-oral route. Indirect contact is the most common route of infection, and FPV may be carried by fomites (shoes, clothing), which means indoor cats are also at risk. Intrauterine virus transmission and infection of neonates can occur.
Disease signs: Cats of all ages may be affected by FPV, but kittens are most susceptible. Mortality rates are high - over 90% in kittens. Signs of disease include diarrhoea, lymphopenia and neutropenia, followed by thrombocytopenia and anaemia, immunosuppression (transient in adult cats), cerebellar ataxia (in kittens only) and abortion.
Diagnosis: Feline panleukopenia virus antigen is detected in faeces using commercially available test kits. Specialised laboratories carry out PCR testing on whole blood or faeces. Serological tests are not recommended, as they do not distinguish between infection and vaccination.
Disease management: Supportive therapy and good nursing significantly decrease mortality rates. In cases of enteritis, parenteral administration of a broad-spectrum antibiotic is recommended. Disinfectants containing sodium hypochlorite (bleach), peracetic acid, formaldehyde or sodium hydroxide are effective.
Vaccination recommendations: All cats - including indoor cats - should be vaccinated. Two injections, at 8-9 weeks of age and 3-4 weeks later, are recommended, and a first booster 1 year later. A third vaccination at 16-20 weeks of age is recommended for kittens from environments with a high infection pressure (cat shelters) or from queens with high vaccine-induced antibody levels (breeding catteries). Subsequent booster vaccinations should be administered at intervals of 3 years or more. Modified-live virus vaccines should not be used in pregnant queens or in kittens less than 4 weeks of age.