What is Feline Panleukopenia?

By: Talin Seta Shahinian

Your cat is precious to you, so the thought of her coming down with a serious illness is distressing. Several viruses are floating around that can pose a danger to your beloved fur friend. One of them is FPLV, short for panleukopenia. Its incidence is declining, thanks to effective vaccinations. Here’s what you should know about FPLV, from prevention to coping with the disease if your cat contracts it before being vaccinated. 

What Is FPLV?

FPLV is a condition that reduces the number of white blood cells in a cat’s body. FPLV, also known as feline distemper, is detrimental to overall health, as white blood cells play a vital role in immunity. White blood cells are central to the immune system’s defense against infections and diseases. The reduction in white blood cells causes a cat to be immunocompromised and vulnerable to secondary infections. 

What Causes FPLV?

Feline panleukopenia (FPL) is a virus in the parvovirus family. It’s related to the virus that causes canine parvovirus but has a distinct profile. That’s why it’s classified as the feline panleukopenia virus. The parvovirus can live on surfaces, in household environments, and is difficult to kill. Only strong disinfectants, such a 2% household bleach, are a match for it. It can remain active in various environments for up to a year if left unchecked.

How Is FPLV Transmitted?

FPL exists in all feline excretions, especially in the feces of infected cats. If vulnerable cats, such as unvaccinated kittens, young cats, or those with other existing illnesses come into direct contact with an infected cat, they can contract the virus. The virus can also be present in contaminated water or feeding bowls. It can also exist on your shoes and clothing. 

What Are the Symptoms of FPLV?

After a cat is infected with FPLV, there’s an incubation period ranging from three to five days, but no longer than a week, before clinical signs develop. Clinical signs may vary, but some of the main symptoms are depression or listlessness. This can sometimes lead to collapse. 

Due to the virus infecting and destroying cells, it often affects the intestinal tract. Vomiting and diarrhea can occur frequently, and there may be blood present in diarrhea. The cat’s hair coat (their fur) turns dull and rough. Dehydration causes their skin to lose elasticity. They can have green-yellow discharge from their nose and eyes. In the case of young kittens who have severe infections, there may be no signs before sudden death. 

Is There Any Way to Prevent FPLV?

Early vaccination against FPLV offers the best protection for your cat. Kittens are most vulnerable, and their early schedule for vaccines includes one for feline distemper. They’ll need booster vaccines when they’re between eight and sixteen weeks old, and a year later, they’ll need to have at least one more vaccine.

What Are the Treatments and Long Term Prognosis for FPLV?

FPLV is diagnosed by a veterinarian performing a physical examination via testing a stool sample provided by the cat’s owner. A blood test will also be done to check if there’s a decrease in white blood cells. 

At the outset of the virus, a cat with FPLV will need immediate treatment. Two significant risks accompanying FPLV are shock and dehydration, so they’ll be given intensive nursing care, intravenous fluid therapy, and antibiotics. While antibiotics can’t kill the virus, they help fight off secondary bacterial infections. The prognosis for complete recovery is good if an FPLV cat receives this comprehensive early intervention during the beginning stages of the illness. Cats with FPLV can recover and go on to live long, healthy, happy lives! 

If you live in NW Wisconsin, Purple Cat Mobile Vet Clinic is here to help you keep your cat healthy and happy. We’re a high-quality, high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic. We see cats exclusively. Find information for scheduling on our www.purplecatvet.com website. You can also look on our Facebook page for more helpful information on all things feline!


All cat spay/neuter appointments are made on this website. We post new clinic dates 6 weeks ahead of time. Check back often if you do not see a date that works for you.

About Us

We are a high-volume, high-quality, low-cost spay/neuter veterinary clinic. 99% of our surgeries are done on cats. We occasionally do dog spay/neuter surgeries for our shelter partners

Call Us Text Us