VICTORIAN cat owners are being urged to take immediate action to protect their pets (pictured) against a highly contagious feline virus to stop it spreading across the state.
The Victorian Division of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) and RSPCA Victoria are calling on all cat owners to ensure their pets are receiving all necessary vaccinations, including booster vaccinations for kittens.
The warning comes amid multiple confirmed cases of the Panleukopenia Virus in stray kittens from the greater metropolitan area of Melbourne.
Feline Panleukopenia is highly contagious and difficult to control.
The faeces, urine, saliva or vomit of an infected cat – along with contaminated surfaces – are all sources of transmission.
The virus causes a severe and often fatal gastroenteritis.
The virus is not contagious to humans or any other animals, however, it can be spread to other cats through the clothing and shoes of handlers or owners of infected animals.
AVA president Dr Paula Parker said routine vaccination of cats and kittens had seen the Panleukopenia Virus become an uncommon disease in recent years.
“Vaccination provides high immunity, which is why these recent confirmed cases of Panleukopenia are cause for concern - and action,” she said.
“It typically takes two days for an infected animal to become symptomatic, so risk of transmission is extremely high.
‘‘Signs include diarrhoea, lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting and dehydration.
“We suggest all cats be routinely vaccinated each year with the 3 vaccinations. Vaccines prevent your cat from becoming ill and help to stop the spread of disease.”
RSPCA Victoria chief executive Dr Liz Walker said all cats available for adoption through its animal care centres were fully vaccinated. Kittens, aged less than four months, require a final vaccination booster around 16 weeks of age.
“All animals adopted through RSPCA Victoria have been health checked, vaccinated, desexed and microchipped,” she said.
“Our concern is for the hundreds of stray kittens brought into our care each year.
‘‘The majority of these kittens haven’t yet been vaccinated and may have been exposed to the Panleukopenia Virus amongst stray cats.
“We have strict quarantine and biosecurity measures in place so that any contagious illness that presents at our facilities can be contained.
“The best way to control a contagious disease is to create a ‘herd immunity’, whereby a large proportion of the population is vaccinated, reducing the likelihood of any disease spreading. That’s why we are reminding all cat and kitten owners to make annual vaccinations a routine part of their pet’s care.
“The importance of keeping your pet’s vaccinations up to date cannot be overstated.”
Anyone whose animal shows signs of illness should always seek the advice of a vet.