Feline Leukemia (FeLV) is a retrovirus that affects domestic cats as well as lynx and the Florida Panther. Dogs and humans can not get this virus.
FeLV is highly infectious and is transmitted via saliva and mucus. It is one of the leading causes of cat fatalities. Overall it affects 3% of cats.
Many cats are exposed and develop immunity. Over 35% of cats in studies have found to carry igG antibodies and have been exposed to the disease. Kittens can get the disease in utro or through the mother’s milk.
What Are the Symptoms?
Symptoms include anemia, loss of appetite, poor coat, and diarrhea. The biggest problem is that a compromised immune system leads to other infections. Cats with advanced cases often get tumors and growths on the skin and bladder infections.
How Do I Know if My Cat Has FeLV?
A simple blood test can be done to find out if your cat carries the antigens and has been exposed. A more advanced test, immunofluorescence, can detect and see if the virus has progressed in the cat’s body and is in the bone marrow.
Some cats fight of the infection and are therefore immune. However, they are still a carrier. So they should not have close contact with an unvaccinated feline friend.
Infection can spread between cats when they groom each other and between fighting felines.
How Does FeLV Affect My Cat’s Body?
Feline Leukemia weakens the cat’s immune system. The disease shortens their lifespan and makes them prone to other illnesses.
Many cats with feline leukemia can live normal (but shorter) lives.
Some however, progress to an advanced stage where the bone marrow becomes infected.
How Do I Prevent FeLV in my Cat?
Accurate testing and vaccines have helped reduce the disease. Cats should be kept indoors to reduce exposure. Litterboxes and water dishes should be cleaned daily.
If your cat enjoys the outdoors, we recommend using a catio. A cat enclosure where they can enjoy bird watching and get some fresh air.
There is no cure for feline leukemia. If you have an infected cat and a non-infected cat living together you should take steps to reduce transmission. Use separate food and water dishes for each cat as well as a separate liter box.
Is There A Vaccine?
There is a vaccine for feline leukemia however it is not 100% affective. The vaccine is recommended for high risk cats.
Your vet will test your cat for antibodies before giving the vaccine. If your cat tests negative they can receive the vaccine.
High risk cats are those that live outdoors, feral cats, and cats in a multi cat household.
Dr. Glaza recommends testing for cats 8 weeks of age and older. Approximentally 75% of positive cases can clear the infection. Twenty-five percent will become spreaders and most likely die from the signs we see.
We recommend that positive cats stay indoors.
An indoor cat (that stays inside ALL the time) does not have to get the vaccine but if there is any chance it can go outside, Dr. Glaza would recommend a vaccine.
Also, if your cat is vaccinated and another cat comes into the home there is protection from a potential risky of infection while we are figuring out the status of the new cat.
Have questions or need to schedule an appointment. You can reach us at 859-472-4141