5 week old kittens – panleuk positive

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This topic contains 2 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Kittyzee 2 weeks, 4 days ago.

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    hi everyone,

    I’m new to the forum, but am desperate for advice. I’m going to try to recap the situation as best as possible.

    9 days ago I rescued a kitten from a shelter. He was eating well, but had diarrhea. Two days ago, he declined quickly, and so we brought him to the vet. He tested positive for panleuk (feline distemper). He had to be euthanized. I was devastated, shocked, and extremely scared. We have 7 other foster kittens in our care. Despite quarantining the ill kitten from the start, one litter of 5 have now all tested positive for panleuk as well. They are all between 12-14 ounces, and are approximately 5 weeks old. Three are not eating well, and the other two are. There is some diarrhea. They are still with their mom, who is continuing to take care of them. We have tried syringe feeding them, which they are extremely difficult about. They are all still very playful. We believe they’ve had symptoms for about 2-3 days, although they had a URI about 4-5 days ago, which is likely related.

    We have another kitten that is 7 weeks old. She was rescued at the same time as the other litter, and was very exposed to it. She tested negative today, so our vet decided to vaccinate her (she is 2.05 pounds). Despite testing negative, she has a fever of 104 and has little appetite. This all developed this morning, she had her last good feedings at around 12pm (it is now almost 7pm). She was given 20 ml fluids today as well, although some leaked out. We also started her on .25 of clavamox. I will try syringe feeding her soon, I just wanted her to catch up a bit on rest since she’s had a long day, and doesn’t have diarrhea and has been eating well to date.

    The final kitten likely had minimal exposure, but definitely some exposure, and is 3 weeks old. He is not showing any symptoms yet. His only contact was with the 7 week old.

    These are my questions:

    1. How common are false negatives? I know that they are possible during the inoculation period, but how likely is it when a cat is showing symptoms, to test negative? It could be possible she picked up the upper respiratory. Although I’m very certain she’s been exposed to panleuk, so the only way she could not get it is if she has some sort of immunity I’d imagine. Also, if she tested negative, does that mean she’s not shedding the virus, and therefore not contagious?

    2. That being said, is immunity possible in a cat this young?

    3. How long do symptoms last for. What are the milestones?

    4. This is our treatment thus far: Clavamox and fluids. We will continue to try syringe feeding formula as well, and will add Nutrical. What else can we do? We’re willing to explore all options.

    5. Do these kittens have any chance of survival? It’s so hard to find information, I know that panleuk is extremely deadly, but can it be overcome in kittens this young?

    We have been going crazy trying to disinfect our entire house, but it will take time. Everyone is isolated and no one is at risk of further exposure.

    Any advice or experience would be very appreciated. I am desperate here, and absolutely devastated – this feels like a nightmare. Also, if anyone has a vet in NJ that is experienced with very young kittens and/or panleuk, please let me know. We’ve visited several vets already but it’s a very complex situation and we’ve received a lot of conflicting information.




    I’m so sorry and saddened by your news.

    Panleukopenia is a viral disease of cats and is often called feline distemper. It is highly contagious and can be fatal, especially in young cats. It is one of the diseases for which cats are routinely vaccinated (the “P” in combination FVRCP vaccines).

    The virus can be spread by direct contact with infected cats but also indirectly by contact with items contaminated with the virus. The virus survives a long time in the environment, and is resistant to many disinfectants, so virtually all cats will be exposed to this virus at some point. Thankfully, vaccination greatly reduces the risk of disease.?

    Young kittens are most at risk, along with unvaccinated cats and cats with weakened immune systems.?There is no specific treatment for the virus, so treatment is aimed at managing the symptoms while cat’s immune system fights the virus. Hospitalization is usually required, and fluids (e.g. by intravenous drip) are generally necessary to combat dehydration.

    Antibiotics may be used to prevent or fight secondary bacterial infections, and medication to reduce vomiting may also be used. In severe cases, blood transfusions may be necessary.

    The infection usually takes 5-7 days to run its course; kittens under 5 months are usually the most severely affected, and unfortunately even with intensive treatment the outcome can be fatal.?

    I believe you are doing all you can for the kits. Keep working with the vet. and ask if they a means of disinfecting your house.




    I’m so sorry to hear that you are battling this dreaded disease with your kittens. I posted a link for you, but you may already know more about this disease than you ever wanted to. I can’t help you with advice as you are already doing as much as you possibly can. Supportive care for your kittens hopefully will save some. Bless you for being a fosterer.

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