You may have heard that there is a current outbreak of feline panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper, at Chicago Animal Care & Control. Feline panluekopenia is a highly contagious virus that attacks and destroys white blood cells, weakening the immune system and puts the cat at a greater risk of contracting secondary infections. We believe that there is minimal risk to the vast majority of our feline patients, but wanted everyone to be aware of the situation, especially anyone bringing home a new cat from a shelter or rescuing a stray.
Symptoms often include depression and extreme lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. The virus is shed in feces or vomit of an infected cat. Others can be exposed by sniffing or licking the vomit or feces or surfaces that have been contaminated.
Kittens are the most susceptible to the virus, although it can strike cats at any age. Generally, adult cats are more resistant because they have been previously vaccinated against panleukopenia or developed their own immunity through exposure to the virus in the natural environment. Studies have indicated cats that have received the appropriate vaccination series during kittenhood and their first booster as adults have long lasting immunity.
Family Pet Animal Hospital has NOT seen any cases of panleukopenia but will remain vigilant. We will take all necessary precautions with any suspect or high-risk patients (young, unvaccinated, sick, recently adopted from shelters/rescues) coming to the hospital – practicing all the appropriate isolation, disinfection, and handling protocols to minimize risk of spreading the infection.
Again, we reiterate that we believe there is minimal risk to the vast majority of our patients because of their vaccination status and likely natural immunity. However, we wanted to share the information.
Animal Care & Control enlisted the help of PAWS Chicago and other rescue groups in order to save as many lives as possible at the shelter. PAWS Chicago has taken in cats that are not currently sick but may have been exposed to the virus at ACC and are looking for potential foster homes. If you DO NOT have cats in your home and would like to foster, contact PAWS Chicago.