Cat typhus: symptoms, treatment, and prevention

 Cat typhus: symptoms, treatment, and prevention

Cat typhus: symptoms, treatment, and prevention

Table of Contents


Also called feline panleukopenia, cat typhus is caused by a parvovirus that causes infectious gastroenteritis. It is a highly contagious disease, as the virus is extremely resilient in the environment, and often fatal if not treated quickly.

As with coryza, unvaccinated kittens are the individuals most at risk for this condition. Therefore, vaccination against typhus should be early and considered even if the cat does not go out, because you can bring the virus home yourself, under your soles for example!

How does the typhus virus work?

The parvovirus responsible for panleukopenia multiplies rapidly in the digestive tract and the bone marrow of the cat; contagion is mainly through stool and urine, so if several cats live in the same house and use the same litter, the risk of contamination is increased.

Typhus can also be transmitted by direct contact with contaminated objects (bowls, cat bedding) or by contact with humans who have touched an infected animal. Following this, the cat will ingest the virus when grooming, or by swallowing fleas from an infected cat, hence the rapid contagion often observed in animals living in communities. It is, therefore, necessary to isolate sick individuals as quickly as possible and to disinfect the environment with bleach.

What are the symptoms of typhus?

The clinical signs of typhus usually appear two to seven days after exposure to the virus. Some forms of feline panleukopenia can cause the death of the animal in just a few hours, but the classic course of the disease is over several days where the following symptoms will be observed: hemorrhagic diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, tremors, fever, fatigue extreme, loss of appetite.

There are also cases of lightning blindness and uncoordinated movements. Severe dehydration results in acute diarrhea and vomiting, which can precipitate the deterioration of the animal's state of health. Damage to the bone marrow, which then ceases to produce enough white blood cells, results in leukopenia.

What treatments for cat typhus?

Treatment for cat typhus aims to relieve symptoms, but it is difficult to eradicate the virus. Only sanitary measures (quarantine, total disinfection of the environment and clothing, wearing gloves when handling contaminated animals, etc.) can overcome the latter, otherwise, it will continue to proliferate in the environment.

The administration of the treatment, based on antibiotics, is preferably done in the clinic. This is an aggressive medication that should be started as soon as possible. You can also use antiemetics, antispasmodics, and infusions against dehydration. Unfortunately, treatment is not always effective and approximately 90% of unvaccinated animals die of typhus.

The vaccine, the only prevention against typhus

The best way to prevent feline panleukopenia is through vaccination. This is possible from the age of two months and is practiced in two injections, one month apart during the primary vaccination. The booster must be done once a year, in an interval as exact as possible, and above all should not be forgotten because the slightest drop in immunity is enough to promote the transmission of the virus.

The vaccine should be avoided in pregnant cats, in fact, there is a risk of neurological disorders for the little ones which can lead to severe psychomotor difficulties. Please note, cat typhus is still rife today, hence the importance of having your animal vaccinated: there has been a recent epidemic in Toulouse, at the end of 2017. The veterinarians had launched a national epidemic alert, calling for rapid and essential prevention through vaccination.

Video -  Information about flea-borne typhus. A local survivor of the disease helps tell the story and how to avoid it.

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