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Doc Sara
Doc Sara, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 952
Experience:  I am a dog and cat veterinarian with a lifetime of experience in our family veterinary hospital.
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I have a cat colony near my house that I care for. Nearly

Customer Question

I have a cat colony near my house that I care for. Nearly all are tame, fixed, and vaccinated. In the last week I've had four get ill....only one (a young kitten) survived. I've noticed a small amount of diarrhea and hardly any vomiting. But they get very dehydrated and stop eating. Very depressed also. I thought at first we had distemper but they are all vaccinated except for a few I cannot catch. None of the non vaccinated ones are showing any signs of sickness. ...it's very confusing as its not spreading like i know distemper does and I'd like to know what I might be dealing with. ..I have bleached all dishes and washed or replaced all bedding.
Thank you
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 11 months ago.

Hi there, I'm Dr. Sara. I'm a licensed veterinarian who works exclusively with cats and dogs. I'm really sorry to hear that you are losing kitties in your colony. They are lucky to have you caring for them - I know it's not easy.

When I hear of diarrhea, sudden loss of appetite and severe dehydration leading to death in cats, panleukopenia (sometimes called cat distemper) is definitely at the very top of my list. It's quite contagious and can take out a large number of cats in a very short amount of time. It's particularly bad when cats are in large groups - I've been unlucky enough to have to deal with this in shelter situations and it's a nightmare. I know that you've had some vaccinated - have they gotten both the initial boosters (they have to be given 3-4 weeks apart) and then been kept up yearly? In my experience most people who bring me feral cats for spay/neuter or vaccines don't return for that very important second booster. If they only got one vaccine and didn't have the booster 3-4 weeks later, it's not protective. I will admit, though, that it's odd that your unvaccinated kitties don't seem to be getting ill.

Other potential culprits could be viral or bacterial GI infections or parasitic diseases. Unfortunately you could also add toxic to that list - they could have been exposed to something toxic at some point. Sometimes even despite veterinary care, we can't pinpoint the exact virus or bacteria that might be causing an illness - we treat symptomatically to pull them through. If you can get any samples of feces to have the vet run a fecal float and/or a parvo test (that's the panleukopenia), that could be very helpful to determining the cause of the illness. Obviously also catching one of them when they're ill and getting them examined would help get a diagnosis as well. You've done a great job by cleaning the dishes and bedding - keep cleaning a top priority until things calm down.

I hope that this is helpful - please let me know what other questions I can answer for you.

~Dr. Sara

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