Panleukopenia virus causes vomiting, diarrhea, and can cause sudden death in cats. The virus is transmitted primarily by the fecal-oral route (including through
exposure to objects/clothing/hands contaminated with virus from feces). Panleukopenia is very durable unless inactivated by an effective disinfectant, and can persist in the environment for months or even years. The incubation period is generally less than
14 days, and cats may shed infectious virus for 2-3 days before signs are observed. Kittens are at highest risk for this disease, and adult cats with current vaccinations are at very low risk.
Control is dependent on effective vaccination,
keeping cats separate during the time they may be incubating the disease, and careful cleaning and disinfection of all areas in which cats are housed.
Vaccination for panleukopenia is highly effective if performed
correctly. A good vaccine program can substantially reduce spread of infection.
- All cats > 4 weeks old in outbreak of the disease
- Cats under 16 weeks boostered every two weeks if
- Sudden death/found dead in cage (especially suspicious in adolescent to adult cats with or without
Diagnosis may include:
Quarantine/Removal of Exposed Cats
- Symptoms and exposure history
- Positive results on an Idexx brand Parvo snap test
- Low white blood cell count on CBC or blood smear
- Segmental enteritis
observed on autopsy
Exposure can occur due to shedding of virus up to three days before development of clinical signs. Overall risk depends on daily level of sanitation
and cleaning procedures in place during the days preceding diagnosis of the first case.
Risk due to environmental spread is reduced if :
- Bleach or potassium peroxymonosulfate used daily to disinfect all cat areas
- Cats remain in
the same area
- Transport carriers, if used, are metal and are cleaned thoroughly between each use (plastic airline carriers are harder to clean effectively)
- Cats are handled with hand washing or change of gloves between cats
- Cat quaranteen
areas are preferably are steel, sealed concrete, or other non-porous, non-scratched surface and can be effectively disinfected
- Common rooms and carriers if used are cleaned and bleached between each use
Risk due to cat immune status
is reduced if:
- Risk is very low in cats 4 months old that are either:
- vaccinated with an MLV SC vaccine at least one week prior to exposure
- documented history of complete series (killed or live) at least two weeks and within
three years prior to exposure.
- Risk is greater in kittens under 4 months old even if vaccinated (due to maternal antibody interference)
- Risk is greater in cats vaccinated less than a week before exposure, or vaccinated with a killed or intranasal
- Risk is greatest in closely exposed, unvaccinated cats
- All ages should be considered at risk if unprotected by vaccines. Panleukopenia is regularly documented in adult cats in shelters, both strays and those surrendered by their owners.
If a single case occurs in a cat area where all cats have been vaccinated and careful sanitation is practiced daily, quarantine may not be necessary. If spread is observed or few of the above precautions are in place, the whole room or even the whole
house may need to be considered at risk/exposed.
At risk/exposed cats must be strictly isolated for 14 days to prevent continued spread of disease.
Precautions for quarantine:
- Minimize handling
of cats during quarantine.
- Wear protective clothing (lab coats or smocks, boots or shoe covers, and gloves)
- Shoe covers or dedicated boots for quarantine are preferable to foot baths.
- If foot baths are used, they must be of sufficient
depth to completely submerge tread of shoes, and a scrub brush used to mechanically remove contaminants. Bleach foot baths must be changed daily or more often if heavily soiled. Trifectant or Virkon-S are better choices for foot baths, as they have more activity
in the face of organic matter.
- Use supplies (brooms, feeding carts, scrub brushes, etc.) dedicated to quarantine and used only in that room.
- Changes gloves or thoroughly wash hands between handling quarantine cats.
- Handle cats in
quarantine after caring for healthy cats.
- Quarantine precautions should be maintained for 14 days. Although most cases will become evident within the first 7-10 days, it is very sad to go through all the effort of a ten day quarantine, only to have
a cat break with signs on day ll and have to start all over again!
Serum for exposed/unvaccinated cats
For kittens and cats that were not vaccinated at the time of exposure , vaccination after exposure will likely
have little benefit. Cleaning and disinfection
- Panleukopenia is very durable in the environment, and is reliably inactivated only by bleach* or potassium peroxymonosulfate**
- Most quaternary ammonium disinfectants (e.g.
Triple Two, Parvosol, Roccal) do not reliably kill panleukopenia virus
- Alcohol hand sanitizers do not kill panleukopenia virus
- Use and change gloves or wash hands well with soap and water after handling suspect cases
- Thoroughly scrub
with soap or detergent prior to disinfection
- Routinely use a disinfectant proven effective against FPLV daily at least during known high risk periods, preferably use at all times (you never know)
- Eliminate swapping of cages and carriers
without thorough cleaning between cats
- Make sure surfaces are either non-porous and cleanable, or disposable. Eliminate plastic litter pans, carriers and other supplies if at all possible
- For wood, plastic and other porous material that can't
be eliminated, disinfect with potassium peroxymonosulfate
- Clean and disinfect ALL areas. Remember door knobs, telephones, vehicles, carriers and other equipment
- Known heavily contaminated areas should be cleaned, then disinfected, and left
to dry without rinsing.
* Notes on bleach: Bleach must be applied to a clean surface to be effective. 5% household bleach should be freshly diluted at 1:32 (1/2 cup per gallon). Correct dilution is very important:
too weak is ineffective, too strong is overly corrosive and irritating to cats and humans. Spray bottles should be non-see-through plastic, as bleach is inactivated by light. Bleach solution should be made up fresh using newly purchased bleach, as solution
becomes inactivated with storage.
** Potassium peroxymonosulfate is marketed as Trifectant or Virkon-S and can be obtained from many animal supply outlets