Many cat lovers amongst you have heard the term FeLV and FIV. Some of you may even be unfortunate enough to have lost a cat to one of these diseases and yet other pet owners are completely unaware that they exist. So let’s have a quick look at these viruses and see what we can do to protect our pets.
FeLV – Feline Leukemia Virus: What is it and what does it do?
- Feline Leukemia is the most common cause of cancer in cats.
- It can cause blood disorders and lead to a state of immune deficiency, hindering the cat’s ability to protect itself against other infections.
- You will often see no sign of FeLV until your cat’s health progressively deteriorates over weeks, months, or even years causing recurrent illness interspersed with periods of relative health.
How is it spread?
- The virus is shed in high quantities in saliva and nasal secretions, urine, feces, and milk from infected cats.
- Cat-to-cat transfer can occur from bite wounds, during mutual grooming, and very rarely through the shared use of litter boxes and feeding dishes.
- Transmission can take place from an infected mother cat to her kittens, either before they are born or while they are nursing.
- However, FeL virus does not survive long outside a cat’s body and die in a few hours under normal household conditions.
FIV – Feline Immunodeficiency Virus: What is it and what does it do?
- Causes immune deficiency that eventually leaves the cat vulnerable to infections that would normally not be life threatening.
- A cat infected with FIV may show no symptoms for years.
How is it spread?
- It is transmitted from one cat to another mainly through bite wounds.
The following symptoms are commonly seen in both of these diseases.
- Cat in generally poor condition with persistent fever and loss of appetite
- Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and mouth (stomatitis)
- chronic or recurrent infections of the skin, urinary bladder, and upper respiratory tract
- Persistent diarrhea
- Persistent eye conditions
- Slow but progressive weight loss with severe wasting late in the disease process
- Various kinds of cancer and blood diseases are much more common in cats infected with FIV
- Unspayed female cats may abort of kittens or have other reproductive failures
- Some infected cats experience seizures, behavior changes, and other neurological symptoms
What can we do?
Test your cat – Your vet should have a combo test that can tell you if your cat is positive or negative for FeLV and FIV, early detection will help with the management of yours cat’s health and also allow you to help avoid spreading infection to other cats.
Vaccinate your cat – a vaccine is available against the FeLV virus (can only be used on uninfected cats)
Sterilise your cat – male and female cats should be sterilized
Hope this has helped you understand these diseases. Let’s keep our cat population happy and healthy!