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9 Ways Feline Distemper is Similar to Canine Parvovirus

Feline Distemper should really be called Feline Parvovirus.  Why you ask? Well for starters, Feline Distemper, also known as Panleukopenia, is a virus that impacts the rapidly dividing cells in a cat’s body, much like the Canine Parvovirus.  The name literally means pan- (all) leuko- (white blood cells) -penia (lack of), meaning that all of the body’s white blood cells that fight disease are killed by the virus.

9 Ways Feline Distemper is Similar to Canine Parvovirus

  1. Both viruses are highly contagious and impact unvaccinated animals, especially those in confined areas such as animal shelters, dog parks, and pet stores.
  2. Both viruses are resistant to common household cleaners but can be killed with a bleach solution (1 part bleach to 32 parts water).
  3. Both Feline Distemper and Canine Parvovirus (CPV) are “antigenically stable”—meaning that they do not change rapidly the way the flu and other viruses do.  This is a positive quality, as it allows vaccines to remain very effective.
  4. Both diseases have an average incubation period (the time from exposure to onset of clinical signs) that is typically between four to seven days, but that period of time can last up to two weeks in some cases.
  5. The shedding period (when the virus is excreted after successful reproduction in a host and is able to be transmitted to other animals) typically starts before the clinical signs are noticed, and will continue for a period of time after recovery.
  6. Both viruses are found in virtually every area that is not regularly disinfected.
  7. It can be difficult to know if an animal is sick just by looking at it, especially in the beginning stages of the disease before the symptoms become evident.  Unfortunately, this is the reason that some animals enter or leave a shelter looking healthy, yet they are really sick and spread illness.  
  8. Feline Distemper and Canine Parvovirus are both very durable and can persist in the environment for several months to a year without adequate sanitation.
  9. Both viruses do not have a cure, however, the resulting secondary symptoms and illnesses can be treated with fluid therapy, anti-nausea medications, and antibiotics.


What You Can Do To Prevent Both Viruses

Vaccination: The most important, and let’s face it, the easiest way to prevent both Feline Distemper and Canine Parvovirus is through vaccination.  A vaccinated animal’s white blood cells will begin to produce antibodies to the specific disease and recognize and respond quickly if the body were to ever come into contact with it again.  Talk to your veterinarian to identify the best vaccination schedule for your pet.9 Ways Feline Distemper is Similar to Canine Parvovirus

Disinfect: If you have had either Feline Distemper or Canine Parvovirus in your home or shelter, it is so important to clean the affected area.  Scrub all hard surfaces that you plan to sanitize with water. Some disinfectants deactivate when they come into contact with organic matter, as well as some detergents and soaps.  Next, scrub each surface with a bleach mixture of 1 part bleach to 32 parts water. All fabrics should be washed with bleach or tossed in the trash if they are unable to be bleached. For more detailed cleaning information, visit our prevention page on or our Cat Treatment and Prevention page on


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