The wonder of modern medicine has brought so many thing with it. One of these wonders are vaccinations. So many diseases that were previously destructive can now be prevented – both in humans and animals.
One of the most common diseases in cats that people can vaccinate their feline friends for is feline leukemia (also known as FeLV).
According to Cornell, Feline Leukemia is caused by a retrovirus. Peteducation.com states that this is the same category of virus which causes human HIV. Luckily for us, these viruses are species specific, so we are not prone to getting Feline Leukemia from our kitties. Cornell and peteducation.com advise that this virus can lead to cancer, cause certain blood disorders, and lead to decreased immune function, leaving our feline companions unable to fight off other infections.
Knowing more about this terrible illness can help us to decide what might be best for our feline family members.
How is this virus spread?
Cornell warns that this can be spread from cat-to-cat by urine, feces, saliva, nasal secretions, and mild from infected cats. Cornell advises that this type of transmission can occur through cat fights, cats grooming each other, fomites (inanimate objects), and sometimes from using the same litter box and food/water dish. The virus doesn’t survive long outside of a cat’s body, but transmission can still occur from a cat’s environment. Cornell also warns that feline mothers can spread this devastating illness through their milk and while the kittens are still in utero.
What are the symptoms or signs of this disease?
Here is a list of symptoms or signs from Cornell and peteducation.com:
- loss of appetite or decreased appetite
- slow and progressive weight loss
- poor coat
- enlarged lymph nodes
- pale gums, nose, and other mucous membranes
- infections (skin, urinary, respiratory, etc.)
- several eye conditions
- reproductive problems and losses
- oral disease/problems
How is this disease diagnosed?
There are tests available which your veterinarian can do to diagnose these diseases. Many require a very small amount of blood and tell you if your pet has FeLV within minutes. There are also other tests out there your vet may prefer. It is highly recommended to discuss this with your vet to make the best decision for your kitty.
Which type of kitty is more likely to get this disease?
Cornell warns that these kitties are more likely to get this disease:
- Cats living with other cats which have FeLV or haven’t been tested or vaccinated for FeLV
- Outdoor cats and indoor/outdoor cats which haven’t been vaccinated for FeLV
- kittens that have mothers with FeLV
Cornell goes on to warn that kittens are much more prone to getting this disease than adult cats.
How can this disease be prevented?
Cornell provides these helpful tips to avoid this horrible disease:
- Decide whether or not vaccinating your pet is right for you. This is something you should discuss with your veterinarian to weigh the pros and cons.
- Keep cats indoors or provide supervised outdoor visits
- Adopt only cats you know to be FeLV negative (free of infection) into a house with FeLV negative cats
- Keep cats that have FeLV separate from cats which do not. This includes no exposure between infected and non-infected cats, and no possibility of items that have come in contact with the virus to come in contact with cats that are not infected.
How is this disease treated?
This is between you and your veterinarian. Once your kitty has this tragic illness, it is not curable, so it is managing the disease for the rest of your pet’s life. Your vet is the best one to tell you the important next steps for your feline companion.
For more information, please visit Cornell and peteducation.com. Also be sure to discuss this with your veterinarian, as you and your vet are the best people to decide what is best for your feline friend.