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The Feline Leukemia Virus

a87a3a_6afe8d0f1c7463b19e5c91c2e055777eFeline Leukemia also known as FeLV, is the leading cause of death in cats. Normally after a cat is diagnosed they lose their battle after an average of three years. This virus suppresses the cat’s immune system. So infections in the cats diagnosed with this can be deadly. This virus has been referred to as a cat’s HIV because of similarities. This virus can also cause Lymphoma or Anemia. With all the dangers that follow a diagnoses of this virus, seventy percent of cats can still eliminate the infection on their own.

 
Feline Leukemia Transmission
Feline Leukemia only infects cats. This virus is only passed between cats through saliva, blood, urine, and feces. However, the virus may only live for a few hours on the outside of the cat’s body. When cats groom or fight each other it seems to be the most common ways to share this dangerous virus. Kittens have the possibility of getting the virus while still in an infected mother’s uterus or after birth and eating the infected mother’s milk. Most of the time an infected cat will look completely healthy with no sign of infection.

 

Risk Factors
Of course the possibility of being infected by other infected cats is higher with exposure to them. The younger the cat the higher the risk this way. Resistance to the virus increases with age therefore, older cats are safer. When there are multiple cats in one place it’s more likely for this virus to spread especially through a litter box or food bowls.
In a home with one cat, statistically, there is only a three percent chance of the cat contracting this virus. The risk factor is higher if the cat goes outside. Tests and vaccines have lowered the number of infections within the last twenty five years.

 

Feline Leukemia Symptoms
-Mouth may be yellow in color
-Yellow in whites of eyes
-Pale gums
-Inflamed lymph nodes
-Infections in Upper respiratory, skin, and bladder
-Loss of weight
-Loss of appetite
-Coat condition decreases
-Weakness
-Lethargy
-Fever
-Diarrhea
-Difficulty breathing
-Sterility

 
Diagnosing the Feline Leukemia Virus
The blood test conducted in order to detect Feline Leukemia is called ELISA. The virus is detected by the presence of the protein in the infected blood. This test must be conducted by a vet. These proteins can be detected very early on as this test is highly sensitive. Some cats however, may clear up their virus on their own in up to three months and then the cat will test negative.
There is a second test for this virus. This test is called IFA. Since this test detects the progressive stage of the virus cats that test positive will not have the ability to clear the virus up on their own. This test will be conducted in a lab as opposed to a vet’s office. If a cat tests positive for this test the end result will not be a good one for these cats.

 

Feline Leukemia Treatment
About eighty five percent of cats who are infected with this virus die during a three year period after diagnosis. Proper treatment and care may help the cat feel healthy and prevent secondary infection. It is important to have regular check-ups twice a year. During these check-ups there should be routine physical exams, lab tests, parasite control. These can prevent further problems and complications may be identified sooner. All infected cats should be fixed and should not go outside.
At this time this virus does not have a cure. There is treatment for secondary infections. Cancer infected cats can receive chemotherapy. Normally, this diagnosis is a terminal illness unfortunately.

 

Protection from Feline Leukemia
If a cat is kept indoors the cat has less risks of being exposed to other infected cats. If a cat does go outside or lives around other cats vaccines are a very important prevention plan but not a complete guarantee. For that reason even vaccinated cats should remain observed and tested regularly.
If a household is planning on adding a new cat or kitten to the family, once they are over 8 weeks of age they should be tested for the virus before exposing them to other cats. Even if a cat is vaccinated it is not a good idea to expose them to a cat that is positive for Feline Leukemia. Adding a new family member to a home may be stressful for other cats especially infected cats and should be avoided as much as possible.

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