Cat vax call after virus outbreak

Dr Ebrahim Bani Hassan administers a cat vaccine at Central Veterinary Clinic and Hospital in Tarneit. (supplied) 409516_01

Cade Lucas

A local vet is urging cat owners to get their pets vaccinated due to an outbreak of the deadly panleukopenia virus in Wyndham.

Panleukopenia virus is a highly contagious disease of kittens and cats similar to parvovirus in dogs.

Dr Meredith Crowhurst from Central Veterinary Clinic and Hospital in Tarneit said she has seen far more cases of panleukopenia in the last four months, and more unusually in unvaccinated adult cats, than during her previous 16 years as a vet.

Dr Crowhurst said the current outbreak in the Wyndham was likely the result of recent vaccine shortages, but other factors could also have contributed.

“It also seems some owners are unaware about the existence and benefits of getting their cats vaccinated,” she said.

Panleukopenia virus has three main effects:

It damages the lining of the intestines and can cause lethargy, inappetence, vomiting, and diarrhoea and in severe cases, the diarrhoea is bloody, runny, and very smelly; it destroys immune cells involved in fighting infection making it harder for infected cats to fight disease and can also cause other opportunistic infections; it damages the cerebellum, the part of the brain involved in fine motor function, especially in new born or unborn kittens which can be life-long balance problems and tremors.

The disease can kill young kittens and make adult cats quite ill.

Dr Crowhurst used the recent case of Fluffy, an adult cat admitted to her clinic with a lack of appetite and tiredness, as example of why vaccinating against panleukopenia virus was so important.

“Is your cat vaccinated?,” the vet asked. “No, because Fluffy is an indoor cat,” the owner replied. “Does she go outside at all?” “No, the only time she has been outside is when she escaped for four hours last week.” The vet did an in-house test for the virus, and it was positive.

“Just four hours out wandering was enough for this unvaccinated cat to catch the virus and make her quite ill,” Dr Crowhurst said.

Dr Crowhurst said while Fluffy had since recovered, she was helped by her adult immune system and that most kittens wouldn’t have been so lucky.

She said panleukopenia virus was entirely preventable with standard vaccines and that kittens required three doses from six weeks old and adult cats two, with boosters then required annually.

In a statement Wyndham council said they had not found any cases of panleukopenia in impounded cats or kittens, but recommended any residents noticing symptoms or illness in their cats, to contact their local vet.