Indoor and outdoor cat owners are being strongly advised to protect their pet against the killer disease, feline panleukopenia. It can easily be brought into the house on owners’ shoes so vaccinating kittens at nine and 12 weeks is advised It is currently estimated that only 30% of the total cat population are vaccinated, which leaves approximately 42 million cats unprotected across Europe.
The good news is that if these shots are followed by a first booster one year later, subsequent vaccinations are then only required at intervals of three years or longer, according to new expert guidelines published by the European Advisory Board on Cat Diseases (ABCD).
Owners risk bringing disease into their homes
“This highly contagious disease, which causes severe inflammation of the gut and can cause death in over 90% of kittens, can be kept at bay with booster vaccinations at such long intervals because of the highly efficient vaccines currently administered,” said Professor Uwe Truyen (Leipzig, Germany), member of the ABCD and internationally recognised virologist. “Yet not enough cat owners are protecting their cats against this disease, previously known as ‘The Cat Plague’, which has been known to wipe out entire cat populations in the past.”
The virus that causes feline panleukopenia is highly resistant and can survive in the environment for several months or even a year, which means that cats do not need to meet other cats to become infected.
Overall cat vaccination levels critically low
“Thanks to efficient vaccines, we rarely see the disease today. But the virus is still lurking out there and could – and does – occasionally pop up unexpectedly, particularly in insufficiently protected cats,” said Professor Marian Horzinek (Utrecht, NL), ABCD chairman. “In order to keep the disease at bay, the vaccinated percentage of any cat population should be as high as possible – certainly higher than it is today.”
Apart from supportive treatment to help relieve symptoms, there is no ‘cure’ for the disease, and cats may die in spite of intensive veterinary care. However, correctly administered, current vaccines are highly effective and efficiently protect cats against the disease. It is therefore essential that all cats, including those that live exclusively indoors, are vaccinated, and that they receive regular boosters.
Recommended vaccination protocol
The ABCD’s recommended vaccination schedule for feline panleukopenia consists of two kitten injections at 9 and 12 weeks of age, followed by a first booster one year later. If this basic programme is followed, subsequent booster vaccinations can normally be given at intervals of three years or longer.
In addition, the experts recommend a third vaccination at four months for those kittens born in environments where the disease may spread rapidly, such as cat shelters, or from queens that have been vaccinated shortly before pregnancy, for example in breeding catteries.
In adult cats with an unknown vaccination history, a single injection followed by a booster after one year is sufficient. Thereafter, boosters may be given at intervals of three years or more.
Contact your vet for advice
As all cats and their environments are different, owners should consult their vets for advice on vaccination in their individual circumstances.
The guidelines on feline panleukopenia were adopted at the third meeting of the ABCD, held in Haarlem, Netherlands, on 8-9 June 06. At the meeting, the panel also discussed feline herpes virus disease, for which guidelines are currently in preparation.