Three cases of feline distemper, also called feline panleukopenia, were recently reported by a Dover-area veterinary clinic.

The Delaware Department of Agriculture is advising cat owners to make certain their pets’ vaccinations are up-to-date to protect against disease after three cases of feline distemper, also called feline panleukopenia, were recently reported by a Dover-area veterinary clinic.

The three reported cases occurred in two six-month-old kittens and one adult cat. None of the cats were vaccinated against feline distemper, and all had direct or indirect contact with unvaccinated outdoor cats. One cat died naturally, and the other two were euthanized for humane reasons.

Feline distemper is a viral disease that causes weakness and fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, low white blood cell counts and sudden death in cats. The virus is spread via the fecal-oral route and objects that have been contaminated by bodily excretions, typically food and water bowls, hands, clothing and crates. The virus is contagious and hardy in the environment unless inactivated by an appropriate disinfectant.

“We want cat owners to know that there is a vaccine for this deadly virus and it is highly effective in preventing disease,” said Deputy State Veterinarian Karen Lopez. “The feline distemper vaccine is considered a core vaccine for cats, and the vaccine series can be started in kittens as young as four weeks.”

Domestic cats are susceptible to feline distemper, but unvaccinated cats living in groups, such as barn cats or feral cat colonies, are at greater risk. About 90 percent of infected kittens will die from the disease but vaccinated adult cats have a low risk of becoming infected. The virus does not affect humans.

Cat owners are encouraged to make sure their pets have been vaccinated for the disease, as well as other core vaccinations for rabies, feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and feline leukemia virus. If owners suspect feline distemper or any other illness in their cats, they should contact their veterinarian immediately.

For information, call 800-282-8685 or 698-4500.