Sonam Dema | Intern 

At least two cats on average were reported dead due to feline panleukopenia (FP) or feline distemper every day at the National Veterinary Hospital (NVH) in Thimphu last week.

The disease outbreak was first reported and confirmed in February this year. By March, 27 cases of infected cats were reported. Today, the number has risen to 64. 

It is caused by parvoviruses present in the environment and is life-threatening for the feline species. It can lead to anaemia in cats aged 2-6 months, cats that are pregnant, and other weak cats. 

Some of the common symptoms of FP are vomiting and diarrhoea leading to profound dehydration. Moreover, they have a refusal to eat, lots of weight loss, high fever, depression, and the cat will hide and therefore die due to weakness. 

An owner of 3 cats, Leki lost two cats to the virus already. “One of my cats died the day before and the other, last night. I think something is wrong with the injections,” Leki said, who was unaware of such a disease. 

Felocell vaccines have been imported from India and are available at pharmacies in Thimphu town. However, many pet owners are confused about the virus. The sick cats are given gentamicin (antibiotics) and deworming medication. Most cats brought in sick die because they are at the terminal stage of the disease. 

Veterinary Doctor Nima Wangdi from the NVH said, “People must not let their pets move out freely and take care of them. Some do but many are still careless and irresponsible.” 

Choki Wangmo, a cat owner in Taba, said that taking care of the pet is compromised since even to neuter her cat she was asked to wait for a month. “I was told they have an acute shortage of doctors and they also have cases piled up from the last two months.”

Pet owners talk about the trauma on their children as the animals die suddenly. “The animal all of a sudden fell ill. Then the condition got worse even after the injection,” a pet owner from Babesa said. “My children were severely affected.” 

Others said that the hospital could share tips and warnings regarding such diseases on its website or social media pages. “It could help save the lives of our animals and so much trauma for pet owners,” a pet owner said.