Feline leukemia virus, also known as FeLV, is one of the most common diseases that is only found in cats. Though it is not transferable to humans or dogs or any other animal, it can be passed from one cat to another when there is a transfer of saliva, blood, and sometimes through urine and feces. According to studies, it kills approximately 85% of the infected feline within 3-years of diagnosis.
However, the good news is that 72% of cats in multi-cat households and 97% of cats in single-cat households show resistance to this virus and fight it off on their own.
What is FeLV?
Though feline leukemia is not a type of cancer, a cat that has contracted Feline leukemia suffers from anemia or lymphoma; this disease also suppresses the immune system of the cat, making them susceptible to deadly infections and can cause cancer. It is categorized in 4 subgroups, namely:
While the majority of cats carry only FeLV-A type, some cats may carry the combination of two or three types of FeLV. It is unlikely for an aged cat to be infected with FeLV as there comes a certain amount of resistance to infection with age. For indoor cats, the risk of having feline leukemia is very low. Cats in catteries or multi-cat households are more at risk, especially when they share food and water from the same container. Hence, it is crucial to take some preventive measures to keep your feline friend safe from this fatal disease.
How can the FeLV virus transmit?
FeLV is a disease that only cats suffer from; it does not affect human beings, dogs, or any other animal. And two of the most common ways through which this disease spreads from an infected cat to a non-infected cat is via grooming or fights. Kittens can get affected by this virus through an infected mother’s milk. Usually, this disease is spread by apparently healthy cats. Hence, if a cat seems healthy, it may be infected and can spread FeLV.
What are the signs and symptoms of Feline Leukemia?
FeLV can affect a cat in different ways, and there are many possible outcomes of the same. One of the most common outcomes of this virus is cancer. It makes the cat’s immune system so weak that it cannot even fight off some of the most common viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and fungi. These secondary infections cause a lot of other diseases that are associated with FeLV. While your vet may prescribe medicines to control the secondary infections, but unfortunately, primarily FeLV is incurable.
In the early stages of FeLV, it is extremely difficult to diagnose a cat for FeLV. However, with time, some of the symptoms that can be seen are:
- Loss of appetite
- Poor coat condition
- Progressive weight loss
- Persistent fever
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Pale gums and other mucous membranes
- Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and mouth (stomatitis)
- Persistent diarrhea
- Infections of the skin, urinary bladder, and upper respiratory tract
- Seizures, behavior changes, and other neurological disorders
- A variety of eye conditions
- Abortion of kittens or other reproductive failures
What should you do when you suspect your cat is diagnosed with FeLV?
If you suspect that your cat is diagnosed with FeLV, you must immediately take him or her to the vet. A single blood test called ELISA will be conducted by your vet to confirm whether your cat has FeLV or not. This method of testing helps to look for the presence of FeLV proteins in the blood, and is extremely sensitive and can even detect the infection in the early stages. However, a lot of cats can shrug off this infection within a few months of getting infected and will show test results negative.
Therefore, another blood test known as the IFA is also performed in order to detect the progressive phase of the infection. Cats who get positive are unlikely to do away with the virus. You can perform a FeLV test at home with a FeLV test kit by Perfect Pet Products.
The table listed below will help you understand the stages of FeLV better.
|Abortive stage||Not Severe.||Clearing of the infection by the cat|
|Regressive stage||A bit to get worried about.||Even though the cat is temporarily infected, it will soon clear the infection.|
|Progressive stage||Extremely Severe||The cat is highly infected and starts shedding the virus through its saliva, feces, urine, and nasal secretions.|
Now, you have a basic idea of what Feline leukemia is, its symptoms, and how it gets transmitted, as a cat parent, it might feel overwhelming. The thought of anything happening to your feline companion can be seriously disturbing. However, your cat can be prevented from contracting FeLV by following a few practices.
How can you prevent your cat from getting infected by FeLV?
“Prevention is better than cure” is something all cat parents should abide by. Here are the things you can do to protect your feline friend from FeLV.
- Keeping your cat indoors: The best way to prevent your cat from getting infected is by keeping him or her indoors. If your cats do not have the habit of going out or other stray cats do not enter your house, the chances of your cat contracting the virus are almost negligible.
- Getting your cat vaccinated: Getting your cats vaccinated is another method of controlling the spread of this virus. Especially for households having multiple cats, or cats living it catteries, vaccination is an extremely important element when it comes to keeping the cats healthy. You can also use the NHV FeLV fighter pack for cats as a supplement. It may help in boosting the immune system.
- Testing a cat before introducing him or her to other cats: There are a lot of pet lovers who like to keep multiple cats at home. Before adding a new cat to the existing clowder, you should always get the cat to your vet and check for any symptoms of fatal diseases. It will help you to prevent the virus from spreading to your other cats.
- Keeping a FeLV infected cat away from other cats: If you have multiple cats and one of them is already infected with FeLV, you should always keep it indoors. It should never be allowed to roam around freely outside.
How to take care of a FeLV-positive cat?
Once a cat is diagnosed with FeLV, he or she:
- Should be kept on a strict diet without raw meat or eggs
- Must be taken to the vet regularly
- Must undergo fecal tests and deworming regularly
- Vaccinations should be given on time
Feline leukemia is one of the deadliest diseases for cats, but overall, the disease is not curable. Though there is no present cure found for Feline Leukemia, secondary infections may be treated if diagnosed on time and prevented with proper precautions. It is crucial to get checked your feline from the vet regularly. It is advised to keep your cat indoors and not let it go outdoors without supervision as well as prevent any feral cats from entering your household.