In an attempt to distinguish feline panleukopenia virus (FPLV) live vaccine strains from FPLV field isolates in Japan, we compared restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLP) of polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-amplified fragments of live FPLV vaccine strains with those of FPLV Japanese field isolates. On the basis of nucleotide sequence differences between PLI-IV, a live vaccine strain, and FPV-483, a recent field isolate, two restriction enzymes, Dra I and Afa I, were selected for PCR-RFLP analysis of nucleotide (nt) differences at nt 3695 and 4508, respectively. Three live vaccine strains including the PLI-IV strain could be distinguished from the Japanese field isolates by their PCR-RFLP patterns by Afa I, but one live vaccine strain was indistinguishable from the Japanese isolates when Dra I and Afa I were used. The Japanese field isolates were divided into two groups by the profile of PCR-RFLP patterns generated by Dra I and Afa I, suggesting that PCR-RFLP analysis using several enzymes provides a good genetic estimate of strain differentiation. No isolate that shows a Dra I-negative/Afa I-negative pattern has emerged in Japan, indicating the possibility that the live vaccine viruses with a Dra I-negative/Afa I-negative pattern, such as the PLI-Iv strain, are candidates for use as live FPLV vaccine strain in Japan where they can be genetically distinguished from field strains.