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Humane society team spares 3 kittens from viral death

LIHU‘E — In April, for the first time ever, the Kaua‘i Humane Society rescued two kittens with panleukopenia — a serious disease that required quick medical attention.

KHS’s Animal Programs Manager Alexandria Taogoshi said Pakala was healthy and came into the shelter on April 13 as a stray, unlike Waikoko and Pocket, who came into the shelter on April 21 and were diagnosed a week later with panleukopenia (parvovirus for kittens).

According to Taogoshi, feline panleukopenia is a serious disease with a high mortality rate and no cure.

Kittens that are under two months of age have over a 90% chance of mortality, regardless of treatment. It can cause death in less than 24 hours. It is extremely contagious to felines, especially kittens who are not completely vaccinated and can only be managed through symptom-management and careful monitoring.

In humans, parvovirus is highly contagious, and comes often with flu-like symptoms like fever, rash, sore throat, upset stomach, runny noise and joint pain, or no symptoms at all.

“Pocket arrived as a single kitten at the shelter, and appeared fat and healthy and was sent to foster,” Taogoshi said. “Pakala and Waikoko were brought in with two other siblings. While they were quite thin, they did not appear otherwise unhealthy. They were split into two pairs and sent to foster. One of the pairs joined Pocket in foster.”

Taogoshi said after Pakala and Waikoko’s arrival, the fosters began to report diarrhea and vomiting, as well as a lack of appetite. The fosters brought them in, where staff tested them for panleukopenia. The results came back positive.

In many shelters, kittens diagnosed with panleukopenia are euthanized to protect the remaining population, as it is so contagious.

Fosters are important to KHS, Taogoshi said. The best way to protect these kittens and the kittens in the shelter is to find them a home with a foster while they undergo treatment.

To Taogoshi, this rescue is a big deal, and brings her KHS team closer to their goals.

“Honestly, it feels extraordinary,” Taogoshi said. “The shelter has been making so many huge strides as of late, and it feels overwhelmingly incredible to be part of that. This was a history-making scenario for our foster program as well as for us here at KHS in general, and it opens the door for so many more lives to be saved. There are so many amazing things in store for the Kaua’i Humane Society and the animals of Kaua‘i. This was one of the first big steps for us getting where we want to be.”

Nicole Schafer, KHS executive director, said staff tried to remain hopeful, but also realistic through this process, since panleukopenia is a heartbreaking disease.

“When we first found out about the diagnosis, we assessed the situation and came together as a shelter to determine if this was a possibility for us,” Shafer said. “We had a foster that was open to caring for these kittens, we had a medical team that was creating treatment plans, and we had an animal-programs team, specializing in fostering, that was able to assist the foster in all the hurdles that would arise through this process.

“Everything aligned so there was no reason for us to not take a chance and at least try. Because of KHS’s amazing team and the foster, we were able to save three kittens that most places would never have given a chance to. This is a huge moment in our history, and it has us thinking, ‘what can we do next?’” Schafer said.

According to Taogoshi, the kittens remain in isolation currently during residual symptom treatment, but all three have tested negative.

“They are growing and healthy and eager to play all day,” Taogoshi said. “In just a week or so they should be 100% ready for surgery and adoption. One of them, Waikoko, has an adopter lined up who is patiently waiting until she can adopt her fur baby.”

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Stephanie Shinno, education and business reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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