Vet Corner: Distemper
by Sandra Black, DVM
Cats are susceptible to a multitude of viral diseases, many of which are preventable with vaccinations. One such disease is feline panleukopenia, commonly called feline distemper. This virus affects many body systems, and can be fatal, especially in baby kittens. It is transmitted via feces or urine of infected cats (who may or may not show signs of illness), or through the uterus in pregnant cats. Cats or kittens infected will show a variety of signs, including fever, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, or death. Treatment is supportive care, and may or may not be successful. The best way to protect your cat or kitten is to get them vaccinated.
Canine distemper is a contagious and serious viral illness with no known cure. It not only affects dogs, but also raccoons, wolves, foxes, skunks, and ferrets. It is spread through the air and by direct or indirect contact with an infected animal. Early on, an infected dog will be lethargic, feverish, anorexic, and will have coughing, vomiting and diarrhea. This will progress to seizures, paralysis, and possibly death. There are no antiviral drugs for this devastating disease. The best protection against distemper is to get your puppy or dog vaccinated, and protect new-born pups from exposure until they are old enough to vaccinate.