Feline leukemia can be extremely destructive to a pet’s health. Understanding this disorder and the steps necessary to prevent it can save a cat’s life.
Feline Leukemia Overview
The feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a retrovirus that produces an enzyme that allows it to insert a copy of its genetic makeup into any infected cells in a cat.
FeLV infections hinder the effectiveness of a pet’s immune system and cause a number of cancers. Feline leukemia causes the majority of household cat deaths.
Among U.S. cats, between 2 and 3 percent have feline leukemia infections. With those who are very young, sick, or at risk for other medical reasons, the incidence rises to 13 percent. Kittens are the most susceptible.
Cats develop feline leukemia by catching it from another cat. Transmission occurs through grooming, biting, sharing dishes or litter boxes, or just being in close contact. When one cat in a multi-cat household tests positive for FeLV, all the others require testing.
Common symptoms include:
Continuing weight loss
One or more abscesses
Ear and skin infections
Swollen lymph nodes
Nose, eye, and mouth inflammations
Presence of lymphoma or fibrosarcoma
Treatment and Prevention
FeLV cats require constant veterinary management of their symptoms. More than half of those whose blood persistently reveals the presence of leukemia pass away due to related disorders within two or three years after they become infected.
Veterinary care at an animal clinic serving St. Clair Shores pets includes periodic testing and follow-up visits for cats with feline leukemia. Veterinarians advise owners to keep any pets known to carry FeLV indoors.
A veterinarian can recommend appropriate nutrition for an FeLV cat and will be on the lookout for secondary infections linked to bacteria, parasites, or other viruses. Most FeLV cats take medication to treat their symptoms and receive annual vaccinations to protect them from intestinal and respiratory viruses. Ongoing dental care is also important to prevent infections.
When they suffer severe symptoms, some FeLV cats require hospitalization until they stabilize. Sometimes emergency blood transfusions are necessary.
Veterinarians often recommend a commercial FeLV vaccine for a new pet. Before administering it, they test to determine that the cat is not already infected. However, the only way to completely protect a cat from contracting feline leukemia is to prevent any contact with an infected animal.