What is Feline Leukemia and what is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus?
Kitten Picture.They are viruses that cause an immune deficiency in domestic cats. Feline Leukemia (FeLV) is associated with deaths and illnesses in more cats worldwide than any other infectious agent. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is related to HIV, the virus responsible for AIDS in humans.
How could my cat become infected?
FeLV-known as the “friendly cat” disease. It is usually transmitted through grooming, oral/nasal contact, sharing food and water bowls, etc. The queen may also infect her litter during pregnancy.
FIV-It is usually transmitted through bite wounds as it is in highest concentration in the salivary glands. The queen does not usually infect her kittens during pregnancy, but recent studies have shown that a nursing queen can transmit it to her kittens.
Which cats are at risk?
Test your cat for Felv and FIVAny cat that is allowed unsupervised outdoor activity is at risk for contracting either of these viruses. Outdoor, free-roaming male cats are the most commonly infected with FIV due to their increased potential exposure. Cats in multi-cat households are at a higher risk for FeLV.
What are the signs of infection?
Because these viruses generally cause a weakness in the immune system, the effects on the cat are quite varied, depending upon which organ or body system is attacked. Upper respiratory disease, such as sneezing, nasal discharge, ocular discharge, etc., is seen commonly along with inflammation in the mouth and gums. Some infected cats remain non-symptomatic for years.
Are the viruses treatable?
Treatable? In some cases. Curable? No. Infected cats are more susceptible to secondary infections that an otherwise healthy cat would normally be immune to. However, these infections can be treated and many virally infected cats recover well.
Many cats live for years after being diagnosed with the virus.
When should I test my cat?*
Test your cat for Felv and FIVWhen a new cat or kitten is adopted.
When cats have had potential exposure, i.e. bitten by a cat of unknown infection status or had unsupervised outdoor activity. When the cat is sick, regardless of previous negative results.
*According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP)
Why should I test my cat?
The AAFP recommends testing as part of your cat’s health maintenance. Annual FIV testing is particularly important in cats that are prone to fighting. If your cat should become ill, knowing the status of infection will assist the veterinarian in choosing the appropriate course of treatment and also in predicting the response to treatment.
The only way to prevent infection of these viruses is to prevent exposure to infected cats. Identifying carriers of these viruses is the mainstay of stopping their spread. We, along with the AAFP, recommend keeping the positively infected cats indoors to reduce exposure.
Currently a vaccine is available to protect against FeLV. The American Association of Feline Pratitioners currently recommends this as a critical part of all cats’ annual vaccinations.