Feline distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that is especially harmful to young kittens, who can die without warning from the infection. Because the virus that causes distemper is so widespread in the environment, the distemper vaccine is recommended for all cats—even those who only live indoors. And it’s particularly important to protect young kittens as soon as it’s safe to do so, as they’re the most vulnerable to serious illness.
Feline rhinotrachetis and calicivirus (feline herpes virus type I) are responsible for 80-90% of infectious feline upper respiratory tract diseases. Most cats are exposed to either or both of these viruses at some time in their lives. Once infected, many cats never completely rid themselves of virus. These “carrier” cats either continuously or intermittently shed the organisms for long periods of time — perhaps for life — and serve as a major source of infection to other cats. The currently available vaccines will minimize the severity of upper respiratory infections, although none will prevent disease in all situations. Vaccination is highly recommended for all cats.
Feline distemper (also called feline panleukopenia, feline infectious enteritis, and feline parvo) is a disease caused by the feline panleukopenia virus. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the virus kills rapidly growing and dividing cells in the body, like those found in the bone marrow, lymph nodes, intestinal lining, and developing fetuses.
Features of Feline Distemper Vaccine
Feline distemper vaccine (feline distemper shot) is manufactured as a modified live virus vaccine or a killed adjuvant vaccine. Both are effective, although the modified live version works more quickly. Most distemper vaccines are combined with other types of vaccines in the same vial to allow for fewer injections. FVRCP is a common such combination vaccine which includes feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia (i.e. feline distemper or feline parvovirus). FVRCP vaccines may also be called 3-in-1 vaccines or 3-way vaccines.
The Merck Veterinary Manual explains that most infected cats don’t show any signs. Cats can become infected at any age, but cats under the age of one are most likely to become severely sick, and kittens under the age of five months are most at risk of dying from the infection. Sadly, death can occur without warning.
Common signs of distemper in cats include:
- Loss of appetite
- Low white blood cell count (called leukopenia—where the virus gets its name).
Feline Distemper Vaccine Side Effects
For the most part, distemper vaccines are very safe. Modified live vaccines should not be used in pregnant cats because it can cause neurologic birth defects, such as those that occur with the real version of the virus. Uncommon side effects of either vaccine include pain or swelling at the injection site. Cats may hide for one to two days if they are uncomfortable or stressed from the veterinary visit. Another side effect of distemper vaccination is a vaccine reaction. Vaccine reactions in cats are rare. Symptoms of a reaction include red splotches or hives on the belly or swelling of the face. If you notice these symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately as vaccine reactions can be life threatening.
Prices of Feline Distemper Vaccine