(Parvovirus Infection, Feline Distemper)
Feline distemper is a highly contagious viral disease. Although it occurs most often in kittens under 6 months of age, cats of any age may become infected. The death rate is highest in young kittens and old cats.
Signs develop 2 to 5 days after exposure to the virus. The disease runs its course in 2 to 14 days. Severe diarrhea is the most consistent sign of the disease, but fever, lack of appetite, vomiting, dehydration, and profound depression are also common. Affected cats often develop secondary pneumonia because the virus severely depresses the cat’s resistance to other illness.
Cats become infected by direct contact with an infected cat or its bodily secretions, especially feces. The virus survives in the environment for long periods, so a cat may become infected merely by visiting an area where an infected cat has been. Cats that contract the virus during pregnancy pass it to their kittens in the uterus. These kittens may be born with a brain defect.
All kittens should be vaccinated for feline distemper, and adult cats should be given yearly booster vaccinations.