Deadly feline virus warning
Pilbara veterinarians are warning cat owners to vaccinate their pets against a highly contagious and deadly virus that has broken out in Sydney for the first time in 40 years and could spread interstate.
An outbreak of feline panleukopaenia virus, also called feline enteritis, in western Sydney this year has killed numerous cats and forced a series of animal facilities to close.
Karratha Veterinary Hospital veterinarian Tim Montgomery said vets were urging Pilbara pet owners not to be complacent and make sure their cat was vaccinated against the virus, as with frequent pet travel and Australia’s large feral cat population, there was “no reason why it couldn’t happen here”.
He said a lot of owners had not vaccinated their cats against the virus because, with such a long time between outbreaks, they believed it was not a threat.
“People are very good with dogs, because everyone is aware that we have a big parvovirus problem here, but I think people get very complacent with cats,” he said.
“They do their kitten vaccinations and then they often lose with track with the cat vaccinations required.
“So it’s probably just a good reminder, that cats are at risk of this disease.”
The virus’ main symptoms in cats are lethargy, a loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Dr Montgomery said the sickness was similar to parvovirus in dogs, to the point where it could to infect both animal populations.
“It’s a virus that attacks the cells of the gut and causes them to slough off and die, and as a result, what happens is if it’s untreated animals will bleed into their gut and dehydrate and not be able to absorb water through their gut and they pass away,” he said.
“It’s very similar to parvovirus in dogs, and in fact cats with panleukopaenia can give parvovirus to dogs.”
“So if we had a problem with panleukopaenia, and we already have a big canine parvovirus problem, we would expect it to infect a lot of dogs and puppies with parvovirus.”
Cat owners can protect their pets from the virus by making sure they are up to date with annual vaccinations, or by sending a pet blood sample to the vet for antibody analysis.
Pilbara vets are urging owners to make sure their cats are up to date with vaccinations.