Panleukopenia in Sydney

We know that pets are family and they should be protected at all costs. We have provided information to support you. If you have any concerns after reading this, please call our RSPCA Sydney Veterinary Hospital on (02) 9770 7555 and make an appointment. RSPCA NSW is fighting for animal welfare every day. We are here to help.

What is panleukopenia?
Panleukopenia is a highly contagious virus similar to parvovirus in dogs.

What are signs of panleukopenia? 
Signs include loss of appetite, extreme lethargy, vomiting, fever and diarrhoea (sometimes bloody). Affected cats are often seen with their heads hanging over their water or food bowls. Diarrhoea can range from mild to potentially life-threatening. Please be sure to monitor your pet and if any symptoms are visible, seek veterinary treatment immediately.


What if my cat and I live close to an area that had a breakout? 
Make sure any cats at home have had their yearly vaccination for protection against the virus. If you are unsure, please contact your local veterinarian or an RSPCA veterinary hospital on (02) 9770 7555. Follow the prompts by pressing six and then one.

How is the virus transmitted? 
The virus is primarily transmitted via the faecal-oral route, which occurs from direct contact with faeces. However, the urine, saliva or vomit of an infected cat – along with contaminated surfaces – are all sources of transmission.

Is the virus treatable? 
Yes, but panleukopenia is exceptionally difficult to treat. As the mortality rate in kittens is 90%, immediate veterinary attention is essential to assess affected kittens and discuss treatment options.

How long does the virus last? 
The virus itself is very resilient in the environment and continues to be shed from affected or resolved cats for up to two months. The virus can persist in the environment for up to one year, including on the surface of food bowls, bedding and litter trays.

The incubation period is between two and 14 days. Clinical signs of the virus are usually visible within five to seven days. The incubation period is the time frame between the cat’s contact with the virus and the appearance of clinical signs

How soon after vaccination are cats protected?

Generally for kittens, two vaccinations are needed – the first injection at eight to nine weeks of age and the second injection three to four weeks later. The first booster is needed one year later. As with canine parvovirus, protection only occurs two weeks after the last booster vaccination.

For kittens in high-risk environments and in certain cases, the third vaccination is recommended at 16-20 weeks old. Veterinarians often stock a modified live vaccine that should offer protection after seven days of being administered. Booster vaccinations are essential for kittens younger than 16 weeks old to ensure lasting protection. If you are unsure how many boosters your kitten needs, please check with your local veterinarian.

Panleukopenia is a part of the vaccine series recommended for all cats and provides excellent protection. Adult cats that are up to date on their vaccinations are at minimal risk for this illness.

Can a dog catch it? 
No. Panleukopenia specifically affects felines, so dogs are not at risk of infection. It is important to remember dogs do get canine parvovirus which has similar impacts on dogs. There is a very effective vaccine available.

Can a human catch it?
No, humans cannot catch the virus.

If you have any further questions, please consult your local veterinarian. You can find your local RSPCA veterinary hospital here.