Feline Leukemia Virus: What You Need to Know

feline leukemia
Feline leukemia (FeLV) is a virus that weakens your cat's immune system. Unfortunately, when the immune system does not function properly, your cat may be more likely to develop other diseases, such as cancer and blood disorders.

How Cats Contract Feline Leukemia

Cats get feline leukemia from other cats. The virus is spread in saliva, urine, feces, nasal secretions and milk from nursing mothers. When an infected cat bites or grooms another cat, that cat may develop the virus. If a pregnant cat has feline leukemia, the kittens might be born with the disease or may develop it after nursing. Because kittens have weaker immune systems than older cats, they are more likely to suffer from the virus. Cats can also spread the virus by sharing food dishes or litter boxes; although this does not happen very often.

Symptoms of Feline Leukemia

There may be no symptoms of the disease during the earlier stages. In the later stages, symptoms may be similar to those that are also typical of other types of viruses. Depending on the stage of the disease, a cat infected with feline leukemia may experience:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Gradual weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Eye disorders
  • Pale gums or inflammation of the gums
  • Poor coat
  • Anemia
  • Skin, bladder or upper respiratory tract infections
  • Seizures
  • Behavioral changes
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Diagnosis and Treatment

Feline leukemia is diagnosed via a blood test that detects a protein found in the virus. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease. Many infected cats die within two to three years of being diagnosed. Although there is no treatment for feline leukemia, symptoms can be treated to keep your cat more comfortable. If weight loss is a problem, nutritional supplements will help your cat receive necessary nutrients. Your cat may get sick more often because of his weakened immune system, but these infections can often be treated with antibiotics.

Prevention

The FeLV vaccine will help prevent your cat from developing feline leukemia, but it does not offer an absolute guarantee that your cat will never get the virus. The best way to protect your furry friend is to keep him or her indoors. When cats roam, they are more likely to come in contact with infected cats that may transmit the virus through a bite.

Before you bring a new pet into your home, make sure that it has been tested for the feline leukemia virus. If one of your cats does develop the virus, separate it from your other cats to prevent the spread of the disease.

Has your cat had an examination and feline leukemia shot recently? If not, give us a call to schedule an appointment.

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Rice Lake Animal Hospital

Monday:

8:00 am-6:00 pm

Tuesday:

8:00 am-6:00 pm

Wednesday:

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Thursday:

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Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "Thank you to Dr. Gambling and the vet tech (I'm apologize, I can't recall her name) who treated my cat, Knoxie, today! I walked in expecting the worst, but left there feeling great relief. They are both wonderful and understanding people!"
    Jenner D.
  • "My dog had a 1 inch cut on his throat and was bleeding. i was in panic mode and called them. Then girl said we are very busy but be here for 5:30 and the vet will look after him. Every one was very welcoming to me and my dog that explained every and costs before they did anything. I have been to other vets and i can say they totally made my day and pricing was very fair . THANK YOU KENN"
    Kenneth H.
  • "I had to share this. I went to Rice Lake Animal Hospital this morning to pick up meds for Mack and Candy. When I arrived there were some people there with their little dog that had an injured paw. The office was closed for the holiday weekend. These people were staying at Southview Cottages and didn't know what to do. I was in the process of telling them about an emergency vet not too far away when a vehicle came in. Around the corner came Dr. Susan Gambling and her little dog. She opened up her office to help these people with their little dog. Not many would do this. This is why I love Rice Lake Animal Hospital �
    I hope the little dog was ok."
    Cheryl A.