Last week, our parent organization, Austin Pets Alive! (APA!) took in 71 cats from the San Marcos municipal shelter that were exposed to a potentially fatal, but treatable disease: panleuk. For these cats, APA! was able to act as a safety net and provide the care and treatment necessary to try to save them. For many felines in shelters across the United States, however, exposure to Panleukopenia sadly means a death sentence. Here are four American Pets Alive!(AmPA!) tools to help ensure panleuk cats in your community have a chance at recovery and life!
#1: Understand what panleuk is and how to prevent it in your shelter
In order to help these cats in your community, understand the basics about what panleuk is and how to prevent it. Here are frequently asked questions related to panleuk that have been borrowed from our Panleuk FAQs:
What is Panleukopenia? Panleuk is most often referred to as “feline parvo”. It is a virus that is transmittable through feces as well as fomite (including people!). Panleuk can ‘live’ for many months and be transmitted on almost all surfaces. The incubation period, the time between being exposed and showing symptoms, is typically around 5 days but can be as long as 14 days.
What do I watch for? The most common symptoms of panleuk are vomiting, poor appetite, diarrhea, lethargy, sudden death. **Isolated symptoms are not always indicative of [anleuk. Many other illnesses can cause these same symptoms and a very large number of kittens can have diarrhea that is not caused by the panleuk virus! Normally we see a combination of the above symptoms.
Why is there an outbreak? Because panleuk can survive on all surfaces it is very difficult to eradicate. The virus can live on anything and it can live in the environment for a year if not cleaned and then disinfected with a parvocidal cleaner or on a surface that is uncleanable (wood, porous materials), making the virus easily transmittable if proper cleaning and hand washing is not being instituted at the shelter. Proper vaccination also plays a key role in preventing an outbreak.
Do vaccines prevent panleukopenia? Yes, the FVRCP vaccination can prevent this disease, but it will take several days before cats will have full immunity, and potentially longer for kittens. For this reason, vaccinate all cats immediately on intake. Vaccinating cats and kittens on intake and providing the necessary vaccine boosters at 2 weeks intervals will help prevent an outbreak in your shelter. The FVRCP vaccine is very effective against panleukopenia and the vaccine works fast (starts working within hours), but it must be administered before the cat comes into contact with panleuk which means shelters must vaccinate the minute the cat arrives, if not before! Adult cats should receive an FVRCP booster at intake and then again in 14 days. Kittens should have vaccine starting at 4 weeks (or 1lb) of age, and boosters every 14 days until 5 months of age. The subcutaneous version of the vaccine does give superior immunity for panleukopenia than the intranasal vaccine.
When does it affect kittens and cats? Panleuk affects mostly unvaccinated cats and those who have not completed their vaccine series. Kittens are most susceptible between the ages of 3-16 weeks of age when their mother's antibodies may still be “interfering” with the vaccine or they are either too young to be vaccinated.
#2: Attend an AmPA! Apprenticeship to learn the ins and out of the specialized care provided at Austin Pets Alive!
American Pets Alive! offers dozens of hands-on training opportunities to learn how to save more cats and dogs in your shelter, rescue, and community. We currently offer three apprenticeships in Austin, TX that teach lifesaving protocols and policies related to panleuk. All three apprenticeships were developed by the veterinarians at Austin Pets Alive!
For more information or to apply visit: https://americanpetsalive.org/maddies-lifesaving-academy#apprenticeships
#3: Implement lifesaving policies and procedures in your shelter or rescue
If you are looking for policies, procedures, and protocols to implement in your shelter or rescue, there are several available for download from the AmPA! website. A full list of the panleuk resources from Austin Pets Alive! can be found in our AmPA! Panleuk Toolkit, which includes policies and procedures for treatment and care, what to do if foster kitten tests positive, SOPs, and more.
#4: Reach out to [email protected] for help, troubleshooting or questions
American Pets Alive! is here to help! If you have questions about any of the resources, classes or need help troubleshooting, reach out to us at [email protected]. We will respond to your questions within 48 or less with help and guidance. Send us your panleuk questions and we will be happy to help!