Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is a type of virus that infects cats and can be transmitted from one cat to another. It’s the leading cause of death in cats, especially those that are not vaccinated. FeLV weakens a cat’s immune system, making it more susceptible to other diseases and illnesses. The virus is spread through direct contact with infected saliva, urine or feces, or through shared food and water bowls.
Once a cat is infected with FeLV, he/she will be a carrier for life. There is no cure for the virus, but there are ways to treat the symptoms and manage its effects.
Symptoms of Feline Leukemia Virus
The symptoms of FeLV can vary depending on the stage of the infection. Early symptoms are often mild and include:
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Enlarged lymph nodes
As the virus progresses, more serious symptoms can appear such as oral ulcers, eye inflammation, pale gums, anemia and jaundice. If left untreated, FeLV can lead to complications such as cancer, kidney disease, or anemia.
Diagnosing Feline Leukemia Virus
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) can be diagnosed with a blood test. The test detects the presence of antigens or proteins that are associated with the virus in a cat’s blood. It can also detect antibodies to the virus, which indicate that a cat has been exposed to FeLV. If relatively high levels of both antigens and antibodies are detected, it’s likely that the cat is actively infected with FeLV. In some cases, additional testing might be needed to confirm the diagnosis.
Stage of Feline Leukemia Virus
FeLV can be split into four stages:
A cat in this stage is not yet infected, but it has been exposed to the virus. The cat should be tested regularly to determine if they become infected.
This stage indicates that the cat has been infected, but their immune system is still able to fight off the virus. The cat should be monitored closely and tested regularly to make sure the virus is not progressing.
This stage means that the cat has an active infection and the virus is multiplying in their body. It’s important for cats in this stage to receive proper medical care and treatment.
This stage indicates that the cat has a severe infection and it might be difficult to treat. Cats in this stage might need long-term treatment and care.
Treating Feline Leukemia Virus
The main goal when treating for FeLV is to manage its symptoms and slow its progression. These could include medications to help boost their immune system and give them symptomatic relief, as well as nutritional support and regular vet check-ups to monitor health. Cats with FeLV should also be kept away from other cats in order to prevent spreading it. Vaccination against Feline Leukemia Virus is also available for cats at high risk of getting infections.
Preventing Feline Leukemia Virus
The best way to prevent Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is to have cats vaccinated, as this will help protect them from contracting the virus. Vaccinating cats as early as possible (ideally at 8 weeks old) is recommended, and might even be required by some shelters and veterinary clinics before a cat can be adopted or boarded. Cats should be kept indoors and should not come into contact with other cats that have not been vaccinated.