Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)

Feline Leukaemia Virus is a viral infection of cats which is common in stray and unvaccinated cats. The virus infects immune system cells (white blood cells) leaving the cat vulnerable to secondary infections which would not be a problem in normal, healthy cats. Cats which contract the virus are at risk of developing severe illnesses such as anaemia and eventually cancer (lymphoma).

There are a wide range of symptoms but they can include a fever, lethargy, weight loss and poor appetite. Although an infected cat may remain healthy for several years, the disease will eventually prove fatal.

How is the virus transmitted?

The most common way is from the saliva of an infected cat. This can include being bitten by an infected cat or grooming, and sharing food bowls. It can also be passed via contact with the urine or faeces and mating with an infected cat.
Another way infection is possible is via a queen to her kittens either when they are in the womb or via milk once they are born. However abortion or resorption of the kittens is common in infected FeLV cats.
The disease is not transferable to humans.

Diagnosis of FeLV

If your veterinary surgeon suspects FeLV, a blood test will be performed to detect the proteins of the FeLV virus. Sometimes several blood tests are required to determine the result. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is often tested for as well, as many of the clinical signs are similar.

Treatment of FeLV

There is no cure for FeLV once your cat has become permanently infected. The treatment focuses on symptomatic and supportive treatment to maintain quality of life and manage the effects of the infection such as immunosuppression, anaemia and cancer.

If a sick FeLV positive cat is diagnosed then the prognosis is usually very poor and euthanasia is the kindest option. If the cat is healthy at the time of diagnosis, the prognosis is guarded. They will be likely to develop fatal FeLV related diseases but the time frame for this to happen varies from months to years.

Prevention of FeLV

Vaccines are available to help protect your cat against FeLV infection. This should be routinely included in your cat’s vaccination course as a kitten and kept up to date yearly with an annual booster. All cats should be vaccinated against FeLV especially if coming into contact with other cats either in a multicat household or having access to roam outside. Vaccination against FeLV does not interfere with the result of an FeLV blood test.

It is unwise to knowingly have an infected cat in the household, mixing with an uninfected cat. Close contact with other cats in the household means they are at a very high risk of contracting the disease from mutual grooming or feeding bowls. An FeLV infected cat should also be kept indoors to reduce the spread of the infection to other cats in the area. This can be difficult if the cat was previously used to being an outdoor cat and quality of life as well as risks to other cats should be taken into account.
It is also advisable to know the FeLV status of a cat if for example you are introducing a new cat to the household.

Useful links:
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
www.icatcare.org

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) affects cells of the immune system (white blood cells) causing a gradual decline in the cat’s immune function. As the immune system is vital in fighting infections, infected cats are at a very high risk of disease and infection.

FIV is a species specific virus so although HIV and FIV are very similar FIV will only infect cats and HIV will only infect humans. People are not at risk of infection from an FIV positive cat.

FIV positive is not the same as Feline AIDS. AIDS is the terminal (final) stage of the disease whereas FIV positive means that your cat has been infected by the FIV virus.

There are a wide range of symptoms which are quite non specific. Once the disease progresses the cat becomes more prone to infections and diseases with common signs like:

  • weight loss
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • inappetance
  • rhinitis (inflammation of nasal tissue causing sneezing and discharge)
  • conjunctivitis
  • lymphadenopathy (enlargement of the lymph nodes)
  • anaemia
  • skin infections 

How is the virus transmitted?

The most common way of a cat becoming infected is from saliva via biting. Cats prone to fighting and suffering abscesses are at a greater risk. Entire males or strays are also high risk as well as cats which mate with an infected cat. There is a low risk from grooming and social interactions but kittens can sometimes become infected either in the womb or via the mother’s milk.
It is not yet known if blood sucking parasites like fleas can transmit the disease so keeping up to date with your flea control is vital.

Diagnosis of FIV

If your veterinary surgeon suspects FIV, a blood test will be performed to test for antibodies to the virus in the blood. Sometimes several blood tests are required to determine the result. Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) is often tested for as well as many of the clinical signs are similar.

Treatment of FIV

There is no cure for FIV once your cat has become infected although your cat may remain otherwise healthy for many years. The treatment focuses on symptomatic and supportive treatment to maintain quality of life and manage the effects of the infection. Prompt treatment of secondary infections is essential.  Feeding a good quality pet food along with regular parasite control and annual vaccinations will help.

Prevention of FIV

There is no vaccine available to protect against the FIV virus. If a cat is diagnosed as positive they should be kept indoors to reduce the spread of the infection to other cats in the area. If they live in a multicat household extra precautions are necessary regarding separate food bowls and food sharing as well as disinfecting litter trays and bowls. No new cats should be introduced as this could encourage fighting. Alternatively re-homing the infected cat to a household with no other cats would be another option.

Useful links:
Feline Leukaemia Virus
www.icatcare.org

Vaccination And Your Older Dog

Dogs of all ages can and do become seriously ill or die from infectious diseases that could have been prevented through vaccination. It is a common misconception that immunity from their primary puppy vaccinations lasts for life or is less important as your dog ages.

Older dogs are more prone to disease and as with everything prevention is always better than cure! Their immune systems become less efficient and weakened over time. Infections are picked up more easily and as a result, senior dogs may not be able to fight off disease as well as they could when they were younger.

The regular annual visits for a booster vaccination, also allows your vet to perform a full clinical examination and check up. This enables us to spot the early signs of any disease conditions which may be developing. The onset of many of these symptoms are often subtle and easy to miss. For example weight loss, increased thirst or changes in appetite and behaviour can all be closely monitored by regularly attending healthchecks for your older dog. Many diseases and conditions are much better controlled when they are diagnosed early for example renal and dental disease.

At Cinque Ports Vets we offer  Senior Clubs which offers you the opportunity to regularly attend check ups with your veterinary nurse.  These help you monitor your pets health in between their annual or six monthly checks with the vet.

Useful links:
Vaccinating Your Dog