Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) infection is one of the leading causes of death in pet cats and kittens. Within the past 20 years veterinary researchers have discovered that this virus is associated with numerous diseases. Persistent FeLV infection is virtually always fatal, and cats infected rarely live more than three years. Fortunately, a vaccine is now available to protect cats against feline leukemia virus.
Many FeLV Diseases
Leukemia, a blood cell cancer, is only one of many outcomes of infection with FeLV. Another cancer – lymphosarcoma – is actually a more common FeLV disease. The cat with leukemia or lymphosarcoma tumor may die quickly or after a lengthy period of suffering and deterioration.
Still more common are “ associated diseases” that result when FeLV impairs a cat’s immune system. Cats infected with FeLV have limited ability to resist other infections by even the most ordinary bacteria, viruses, and fungi. They may experience reproductive failures; a high rate of infectious diseases such as colds and pneumonia; frequent stomach problems; skin and mouth sores; and anemia. In fact, FeLV infection must be suspected and investigated whenever a feline patient develops anything but the simplest of problems. Many infected cats die of associated disease before FeLV cancers develop.
A Contagious Virus
Feline leukemia virus is contagious. It is present in the saliva, urine, and, feces of infected cats, and is passed to healthy cats by licking, sneezing, and sharing contaminated food bowls and litter pans. Kittens can even pick up the virus by nursing an infected mother.
Certain populations of cats have a higher risk of infection because of more exposure to FeLV. These are outdoor cats (full time or partly in and outdoors) and cats living in multi-cat household.
Diagnosis of FeLV Infection
Because FeLV is associated with so many disorders, observable signs of FeLV disease vary dramatically. It’s impossible to diagnose a cat precisely by signs only in the early stages of infection. Still, signs such as depression, fever, loss of appetite, and swollen glands in the neck or abdomen suggest onset of FeLV- related disease. The best way to diagnose FeLV is a simple blood test we perform right here at the Rannals Small Animal Clinic, and it only takes a few minutes.
Prevention Now Possible: Vaccination Recommended
For years cat owners had no means of preventing FeLV infection in their pets. Now cats can be protected against the many forms of suffering associated with and caused by FeLV infection. Vaccination is recommended for all healthy cats nine weeks of age or older.
Protect your cat against feline leukemia.
Call us at 903- 839-7235 today for an appointment.