Although a diagnosis of Feline Leukemia Virus can be emotionally devastating, it is important to realize that cats with FeLV can live normal lives for prolonged periods. Our vets in Los Angeles share some important information about Feline Leukemia Virus as well as the symptoms and prognosis for cats living with this infectious disease.
What is Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)?
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is one of the most common infectious diseases in cats in the United States, most commonly affecting cats that are experiencing other conditions.
FeLV is easily transmitted from one cat to another via infected cats' saliva, nasal secretions, urine, feces, and milk. Cats can also spread this disease to one another during fights or mutual grooming, as well as through shared litter boxes and feeding dishes.
Feline leukemia virus can be passed on from the mother cat to her kitten before or after birth. However, FeLV does not live long outside of a cat's body and so direct contact is the typical form of transmission.
What are the symptoms of Feline Leukemia in cats?A cat may not exhibit any of the expected symptoms in the early stages of feline leukemia virus infection. The longer they have been infected, the more likely a pet parent will notice a decline in the health of their beloved feline. FeLV symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Progressive weight loss
- Poor coat condition
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Persistent fever
- Pale gums and other mucus membranes
- Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and mouth (stomatitis)
- Infections of the skin, urinary bladder, and upper respiratory tract
- Persistent diarrhea
- Seizures, behavior changes, and other neurological disorders
- A variety of eye conditions
- Reproductive failures including the abortion of kittens
How is Feline Leukemia Virus diagnosed?
When it comes to diagnosing feline leukemia virus there are two types of blood tests that your vet may most likely use, both of which detect a protein in the virus called FeLV P27.
The first test your veterinarian may use is an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), which can be used during the initial screening for feline leukemia virus. Free FeLV particles are commonly found in the bloodstream at all stages of infection, and ELISA-type tests detect them.
What is the treatment for Feline Leukemia Virus?
Unfortunately, there is currently no treatment for FeLV. Although this may not be effective in all cats, the aim of treatment is to manage and reduce the amount of feline leukemia virus in the bloodstream to help ease symptoms and reduce transmission.
It is common for veterinarians treating and managing FeLV-positive cats to treat specific symptoms and conditions that the cat is experiencing due to FeLV, such as infections or anemia.
Can Feline Leukemia Virus be Prevented?
The only way a cat owner can prevent their cat from contracting the feline leukemia virus is by keeping them away from cats that have the virus. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to ensure that your cat stays indoors. If you do decide to let your cat play outside, make sure they are kept under supervision or in a place that will keep them safe and away from other outdoor cats. All cats should undergo FeLV testing before being brought into a home, and cats that are infection-free shouldn't interact with cats that are infected.
Always ensure that FeLV-infected cats have their own litter boxes and dishes and will not have access to those of the non-infected cats.
A relatively effective vaccine against FeLV is available, although like most vaccinations it is not 100% effective and is an elective vaccine, but it is recommended as an easy way to lower the risk of your cat contracting FeLV. Owners contemplating vaccination for their cat or cats against feline leukemia virus should consider the cats' risk of exposure to FeLV-infected cats and discuss the pros and cons with your Los Angeles vets.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.