The disease Feline infectious enteritis is caused by a virus known as feline parvovirus or feline panleukopenia. FIE is also known as Feline Distemper (different to canine distemper) and it is a serious disease which has often fatal consequences. Dogs and humans cannot catch the disease although most of the feline family are susceptible. Following the entrance of the blood stream, the virus is able to enter the bone marrow, lymph glands and eventually the gut where it destroys the rapidly dividing cells on its lining. This results in severe gastroenteritis as the cats show symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea. Unvaccinated kittens between the ages of four to twelve weeks are most at risk because their immune systems will not have matured enough to fight off the infection. Some cats and kittens are sometimes found dead with no signs or symptoms and since it is highly contagious this makes it all the more dangerous. Vaccination against feline infectious enteritis is effective and is highly recommended by veterinarians.
The disease is transmitted into the mouth where it spreads if there is contact with infected faeces or contaminated surfaces such as bowls, clothes, floors or other such items. Fleas also pass on the feline panleukopenia. Recently, it has been suggested that cats can become infected with the canine parvovirus. Within the cats placenta unborn kittens can also contract the disease and often have brain damage as a result. The feline parvovirus can survive outside the host for as long as a few years and infected cats still pass out the virus for a few days after catching the disease.
If a cat has become infected within the household then a very strong and effective disinfectant should be used all over any areas where the cat has touched. Obviously these should not be used on the cat. All bedding should preferably be thrown out or strongly disinfected along with food and water bowls. The infected cat should be kept indoors to prevent infection to other animals breeders should not have cats who are particularly susceptible in for period of at least one year.
The symptoms of being infected by the Feline Parvovirus are usually those of infectious enteritis. The cats can vomit, and sometimes have severe diarrhoea. Dehydration results from this and from the fact that the cat does not seem to have the ability to drink. Fever is sometimes apparent and occasionally there is some frothing around the mouth. The cat will be depressed and unable to eat.
Unborn kittens can become infected in the womb and present symptoms of brain damage after birth. When the kittens become active they find it difficult to walk, appear uncoordinated and muscle tremors may occur. Since the virus attacks the bone marrow and lymph glands, there is a decrease in the number of white blood cells produced. It can take up to five days for the cat day after the symptoms begin to become present. In some severe cases, death can occur suddenly and without presenting any symptoms.
Treatment and Prevention
There is no cure or specific treatment plan. IV fluids are administered to replace those lost from dehydration and antibiotics are given to prevent the possibility of a secondary infection. Medication to stop the vomiting may be given, also known as anti-emetics. In some cases, the treatment can consist of a blood transfusion.
Due to the highly contagious nature of the disease protective clothing must be worn when treating the infected animal and all measures of disinfection used. The animal should be isolated to prevent further transmission. Vaccines are available and effective in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Feeding the cat small meals as soon as the vomiting has resolved is also important. Kittens should be vaccinated on two occasions between nine and twelve weeks and later be given annual FIE boosters. Generally, all cats can be vaccinated.
Diagnosis and Prognosis
The diagnostic test for FIE consists of a blood and faecal test. There is a marked decrease in white blood cells and this is often noticed. Dead animals have samples of their intestines taken and tested upon. The prognosis can be good if the diagnosed and treated in time. However, fatalities do often occur.