SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Vaccinations for cats - Panleukopenia and Calcivirus

Panleukopenia

Also known as Feline Enteritis, this is a viral disease causing severe vomiting and diarrhoea especially in young kittens. It is spread by the faeces and urine of infected cats and pregnant cats can transmit the disease to their kittens in the womb. However, the disease is easily prevented by routine vaccinations.

In late pregnancy the kittens survive, but the virus can damage the part of the brain which controls co-ordination. This results in a condition called cerebellar hypoplasia, also known as ‘wobbly kitten syndrome’. Kittens with cerebellar hypoplasia suffer from tremors and poor coordination and may also be born blind. This damage is permanent, but they may go on to have otherwise healthy lives.

Panleukopenia is highly contagious and attacks the cat’s immune system, leaving it unable to fight infection. There is no specific treatment other than fluids and medication to control vomiting and antibiotics to prevent secondary infections. Older cats are more likely to survive Panleukopenia than young kittens.

Calcivirus

Feline calicivirus (cat flu) can by spread by direct contact with affected cats, or by air-borne spread, or contamination of the environment. Cats that recover can occasionally become lifelong carriers, and able to transmit the infection to other cats, and signs of the virus may recur when the cat is under stress of any kind.

Symptoms of feline calcivirus include fever, inappetance, discharge from the nose and eyes and sneezing. It can also cause drooling and severe mouth ulcers. More severe strains can lead to pneumonia. Stress or illness can cause flare-ups of the virus. Cats of all ages may be affected, but the disease is most common in kittens.

It’s important to note that vaccination prevents infection with some strains of feline calicivirus but not all. However, cats that do become infected generally have much milder symptoms than those that are unvaccinated.

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