Feline Diseases

Feline Leukemia Virus (FELV)

Feline Leukemia is a retrovirus that causes immunodeficiency and development of tumors in domestic cats. There is no genetic susceptibility to infection by FELV. FELV is spread by cat to cat transmission; such as bites, grooming, sharing litter pans or food dishes. A mother cat can also transmit the virus during the time of birth, or through lactation. Cats at high risk include feral cats, kittens, male cats (as a result of behavior), cats allowed outdoors and multi-cat households. The onset of FELV usually occurs over a period of several months to a year after infection. Common symptoms are enlarged lymph nodes, upper respiratory tract disease, urinary tract disease, conjunctivitis, persistent diarrhea, gingivitis, dental disease, chronic nonresponsive or recurrent infections of the external ear and skin, abscesses, fever, wasting, anemia, and ataxia. Often infected cats will develop types of cancers such as Lymphoma, Leukemia and Fibrosarcoma. There is not a cure for the FELV virus, only to treat secondary infections or use supportive care. Any cat infected with FELV should be kept away from other cats. When bringing a new cat into your home it should be quarantined until examined by a veterinarian. The prognosis of a cat with the FELV virus is poor. More than 50% succumb to related diseases within two to three years of infection.*

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is a complex retrovirus that causes immunodeficiency disease in cats. FIV is in the same genus of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the causative agent of AIDS in people. There is no genetic susceptibility for infection, although genetics may alter the severity of the disease. FIV is spread by cat to cat transmission, usually through bite wounds. It is also spread from a mother cat to kittens during birth, and can be spread through sexual transmission. Cats at high risk include feral cats, older cats (risk of infection increases with age), male cats (more aggressive and likely to roam) and outdoor cats. FIV is a slowly progressive virus. A FIV positive cat may remain healthy for years before clinical signs appear. These signs would include recurrent illnesses, usually upper respiratory or gastrointestinal disease, enlarged lymph nodes, gingivitis, severe dental disease, kidney damage, persistent diarrhea, fever, wasting, eye disease, cancer (such as lymphoma), and nervous system abnormalities. FIV is not curable, but is maintained by treating the secondary infections that occur. FIV positive cats should be kept away from other cats. Any new cats should be quarantined until examined by a veterinarian. The prognosis of an FIV positive cat is moderate to poor. Within the first two years of diagnosis (usually between four to six years after exposure) about 20% of the cats will die, but 50% will still have no clinical signs. During later stages of the disease (once symptoms occur), life expectancy is less than one year.*

*Information obtained from Blackwell's Five Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline

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