Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a serious cat disease that all cat lovers should be aware of. The virus is known to cause many serious health problems such as cancer, blood disorders, and immune deficiencies. FeLV can affect any cat and comes in two stages: Primary Viremia, which is the early stage, and Secondary Viremia, which is the stage that is usually irreversible. Some cats have an immune system that is able to prevent the escalation of the virus to the Secondary Viremia stage though.
How is feline leukemia virus spread?
FeLV is most commonly spread by extensive contact between two cats or kittens. The virus lives in a cat’s bodily fluids and can be transmitted from one cat to another during mutual grooming, from a bite, and through shared litter boxes and food dishes. An infected mother can also pass the virus to her kittens before they are born. However, once outside of the cat’s body, FeLV can only survive for a couple of hours.
Are certain cats at a higher risk for contracting the virus?
All cats are at risk for feline leukemia virus. Currently in the United States, approximately 2 to 3 percent are infected with the virus, but that statistic rises to 13 percent when dealing with young or sick cats. Kittens are at the greatest risk for contracting the virus since their immune systems tend to be weaker than those of adult cats. However, all cats that are exposed to a cat with the virus, either through a bite or extended contact, are at risk for the disease. This includes cats that live with another cat that has the disease, cats that are allowed outside, and kittens that are born to an infected mother.
What are the symptoms of FeLV?
When a cat first becomes infected with the virus, it is common for them not to show any symptoms at all. However as the virus develops over time, the cat’s health will begin to slowly deteriorate. Symptoms of this include:
â€¢ Loss of appetite and weight loss
â€¢ Lack of pink or red color in the gums
â€¢ Chronic illness
â€¢ Progressive weakness
â€¢ Persistent diarrhea
â€¢ Breathing difficulty
â€¢ Yellow color in the mouth and/or the white of the eyes
How can this virus be diagnosed?
If your cat is displaying symptoms that are associated with FeLV, be sure to bring it to a veterinarian for a blood test. There are two types of blood tests that detect the virus. The first is called, ELISA, which can detect both primary and secondary stages of the disease. The second test, IFA, only detects the secondary stage.
How can I prevent my cat from contracting FeVL?
Since all cats are at risk for the virus, the only true way to protect your cat is to prevent exposure to cats with the feline leukemia virus.
â€¢ Keep your cats indoors. When they are outside you don’t know what cats they are coming into contact with.
â€¢ Make sure you are only bringing infection-free cats into a home with uninfected cats.
â€¢ If you have a cat that is infected, be sure to keep your uninfected cats away from it. Do not allow them to use the same litter box or food bowl.
â€¢ Consider getting the feline leukemia virus vaccination for your uninfected cats.
Remember that the feline leukemia virus is a serious disease for cats. Make sure that you keep your cat protected from it and bring it to the veterinarian if see any of these symptoms.