The Cape of Good Hope SPCA has issued an urgent appeal for cat owners to vaccinate following a noticeable increase in the number of Feline Panleukopenia infections (Colloquially known as Katgriep in Afrikaans) in Cape Town. Resident veterinarian, Dr Stephan Spamer, confirms “The increase in infections has been noted both in the stray/feral cats brought into the SPCA and also in owned cats coming in at our clinic”.
“Similar to Canine Parvo, FPV is a very serious and lethal disease for cats. The incubation period for FPV ranges from 4 days to 14 days and infected cats can die in as little as 12 hours after showing clinical signs, even just mild lethargy – he added.
The virus is highly contagious, remaining active with cats continuing to shed the virus for up to 6 months afterwards. This makes environmental contamination even with recovery a significant problem, as it inevitably leads to propagation of the disease in a population of cats, especially the case in roaming cats. The prognosis for a kitten infected with FPV is poor, and a large proportion die, despite intensive treatment. Adults cats may have a better chance of survival.
Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV) is a virus genetically very similar to Canine Parvo Virus and there is only an estimated 2% difference in their genetic make-up.
Symptoms and diagnosis
Symptoms of FPV may include loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, dehydration and sudden death, making the diagnosis trickier as all the symptoms are fairly non-specific. Diagnosis is therefore definitively made by performing a Canine Parvo Virus rapid test (confirmed as being accurate in literature due to the close genetic link between the diseases). Sadly, the prognosis in young kittens or kittens born with the disease from infected mothers is very poor. These kittens may develop one of a variety of permanent complications (such as cerebellar hypoplasia in congenital infection, leading to lifelong neurological symptoms) or fading kitten syndrome.
Adult cats that are infected may have a better prognosis, with variable degrees of intensive treatment. However, as mentioned above, population biosecurity is a significant risk, as they will spread the disease in the environment for a prolonged period of time, with the disease being very stable in the environment, staying infective for up to a year. This puts new animals at risk as well if new kittens are added to the family.
Transmission is by contact with the faeces of the infected animal, as well as fomites (infected particles off the infected cat). This means that any form of contact with the infected animal or contaminated environment poses the risk of infection.
Unfortunately, the only prevention method available is to follow a proper and complete vaccination protocol. The disease is covered in the 3-in-1 Feline Vaccine, which should be initiated as a kitten, and maintained as an adult. These vaccinations are available at the SPCA vaccination clinic, as well as any private practice.
The standard for cats 3-in-1 covers
OPTIONAL – FeLV
The vaccine is administered in two doses given every three weeks and thereafter once annually for the duration of your cat’s lifespan.
In addition to the standard core vaccines above rabies vaccine is given at twelve weeks of age and should be repeated before the animal is twelve months old thereafter once annually for the duration of your pet’s lifespan. However, this depends on the type of vaccine used, so check with your vet.