FELINE IMMUNO DEFICIENCY VIRUS (FIV) (FELINE AIDS)
FIV is a retrovirus related to but distant from the Feline Leukemia Virus. FIV is classified as a Lentivirus (or “slow virus”) as are the viruses that cause:
• Progressive Pneumonia in Sheep
• Infectious Anemia in Horses
• Arthritis – Encephalitis in Goats
• Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which is Aids in People
The prevalence of FIV varies with geographic location and number of cats tested. FIV infected cats are found throughout the world. In the
United States, 1.5 to 3 percent of “apparently healthy” cats are infected. Up to 15 percent of cats sick with signs of other diseases are also FIV positive.
Aggressive outdoor non-neutered male cats are most often infected. Open wounds, especially bite wounds, are the primary means of viral transmission. Rarely an infected mother can pass FIV to her kittens before they are born, during delivery, or through her milk while they are nursing.
The virus attacks the body’s immune system and impairs normal defense mechanisms. The same infectious agents (i.e., bacterial, fungi, virus, etc.) found in the cats everyday environment where they are not harmful to healthy animals now can cause severe illnesses in cats with impaired defense systems.
These “secondary” infections cause the majority of symptoms and are the major cause of death in FIV infected cats.
Over half of FIV cats have severe gum disease (gingivitis) and recurrent mouth infections.
• Appetite Loss
• Poor Hair Coats
• And a Fever are also common signs.
Long term and/or recurrent infections of the skin, urinary bladder, and upper respiratory tract may occur. Other signs can include diarrhea, seizures, and abortion. Some cats develop cancer, although cancer is much more common in cats with Feline Leukemia. Other cats have a variety of recurrent illnesses interspersed with periods of relatively normal health. Late in the disease, weight loss and severe wasting occur.
Accurate prediction of life expectancy is difficult. Some cats appear to remain relatively healthy and symptom free for months to years, but once other illnesses and/or persistent fever and weight loss occur, death is eminent. Survival over 2 years is rare.
Diagnosis is based on history, signs and blood tests to detect FIV. Treatment is symptomatic. There is no cure or vaccine currently available. Ideally FIV positive cats should be isolated to prevent spreading the virus but reports of actual transmission are quite uncommon unless the cats fight. Therefore, FIV positive cats may re-enter a multi-cat home.
HUMAN HEALTH RISK
NOTE: FIV is similar to the Human Immune Deficiency Virus and the disease in cats is similar to that in people. The FIV Virus is very specific to cats, and currently, there is no evidence that FIV can be spread to humans. Therefore, people cannot get AIDS from a cat with FIV