Cape Town - TEARS Animal Rescue is urging pet owners to make sure their cats are fully vaccinated after recently identifying an increase in laboratory-confirmed cases of feline panleukopenia, a fatal viral disease affecting cats.
TEARS first identified a case of feline panleukopenia five weeks ago after an infected cat was brought into the TEARS Veterinary Hospital from Vrygrond, Capricorn.
“Currently we’re seeing more and more cases from communities in the Deep South, Cape Flats and Southern Suburbs, including Diep River and Constantia. The only way to curb the spread is by vaccination,” said TEARS head veterinarian Dr Tania Heuer.
The disease has a mortality rate of up to 90% in unvaccinated animals.
“We urge all pet owners to make sure their cats and kittens have been vaccinated to prevent the spread of the disease and limit the negative impact in our communities and the unnecessary suffering of animals.
Any unvaccinated cat is susceptible, especially community and homeless cats that live in colonies. Because of the high contagiousness and mortality rate of the disease, animals that contract and show symptoms of the disease have to be euthanised,” Heuer said.
Feline panleukopenia takes two to seven days to manifest. Cats contract the disease either by direct or indirect contact with other infected cats, or with the virus that can lie dormant in an infectious environment for years, having been present in the vomit, diarrhoea or nasal secretions of a sick animal.
Infected cats experience loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration, high fever and, ultimately, death.
The prognosis for cats that are malnourished and have weak immune systems is extremely poor as they are likely to die within 12-24 hours.
Heuer warned pet owners not to be complacent about the seriousness of this disease.
“Due to the infectious nature of the virus, an outbreak in the Western Cape is inevitable if nothing is done to curb its spread. Kittens need two vaccinations one month apart, starting at 8 weeks old, while a standard annual vaccination is adequate for adult cats.”
This latest spate of feline panleukopenia cases to affect pets in low income communities of the Southern Peninsula comes in the wake of a distemper scare last month that resulted in the deaths of a number of dogs and puppies as a result of not having been vaccinated, TEARS said.
Like feline panleukopenia, distemper and canine parvovirus are two of the most infectious diseases in dogs.
TEARS vaccinates as many as 350 vulnerable pets per month, providing sterilisations and the first vaccine for free to its welfare clients living in Masiphumelele, Capricorn, Ocean View and Red Hill.
To donate towards TEARS’s Veterinary Outreach Fund, enabling TEARS Mobile Clinics to continue their sterilisation and vaccination drives, visit https://tears.devman.co.za/devman/online/vetoutreach/ or www.tears.org.za