Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV) is closely related to Canine Parvovirus and is often referred to as parvovirus in cats.
Not commonly seen in Australia, the first case to be reported in many years occurred at Lort Smith Animal Hospital, Melbourne in October 2013. Since that time, reports have included outbreaks in other areas of metropolitan Melbourne, but the virus has now been documented nearly 6 hours north in Mildura, on the border of Victoria and NSW.
Seven kittens aged 5 months and one 12 month old male entire cat, diagnosed at Mildura Veterinary Hospital, are in addition to 31 cases that have been recorded over the past 12 months around Melbourne and the South of Victoria. The affected animals were all unvaccinated. Other cases have also had co-infections, including Coronavirus and Campylobacter jejuni.
How is the virus transmitted?
FPV is highly resistant to physical factors and chemical substances. As with Canine Parvovirus, FPV can remain infectious in the environment for months. Infected cats shed very high numbers of virus in their faeces and as a result the virus can very quickly accumulate. Breeding catteries and shelters are reported to be particularly at risk. Importantly, cats that do survive infection can still shed virus up to 6 weeks post-recovery. Contaminated clothing, shoes, food and water bowls, cages and flooring, and even fleas have all been reported as potentially aiding the spread of FPV.
What do I need to look for?
Clinical signs and subsequent pathology are a reflection of the FPV requirements for replication. It requires cells in the S-phase of division and as such, mitotically active tissues are affected.
Invasion of the intestinal crypt epithelium results in villous collapse, enteritis and diarrhoea. Invasion and replication of lymph nodes and the thymus results in apoptosis of lymphocytes and thymic atrophy, resulting in lymphopenia. Bone marrow will also be affected and through the depletion of stem cells, neutropenia, thrombocytopenia and anaemia will eventuate. Foetal death will occur in infected queens and the developing cerebellum of the young is also targeted, resulting in cerebellar hypoplasia and ataxia.
Other clinical signs include anorexia, fever, dehydration and fever. However, kittens may only present with ‘fading kitten syndrome’ whereby the kitten is normal one day, quickly fades and dies within 24 hours.
There is no cure for this disease, and as for Canine Parvovirus, consists of supportive therapy only. Vaccination is the best method we have as an aid in the prevention of FPV.