Feline Leukemia is caused by a retrovirus and is the leading viral killer of cats today. The virus is spread by prolonged cat-to-cat contact and through bite wounds. An infected mother can transmit leukemia to her unborn kittens. The virus is shed in saliva, tears, urine, and feces but is unstable in the environment and easily killed by warmth and drying.
Signs can include those of any severe long-term illness because FELV interferes with your cat’s natural ability to ward off infection.
• 50% also have Feline Infectious Peritonitis
• 50% die because of Secondary Infections
• 90% develop cancer
The most common signs:
Anemia: loss of red blood cells causes the cat to become very weak.
2. Liver Dysfunction causes yellowish tinge to whites of eyes and skin, which is called jaundice.
3. Depression, decreased appetite, and weight loss are common.
4. Blood in stool.
5. Diarrhea or constipation.
6. Difficulty breathing.
7. Excessive drinking and urination occur with kidney involvement.
8. Abortion in pregnant cats.
9. Birth of “fading” kittens can occur when leukemia virus is spread to unborn kittens from an infected mother.
Cancer occurs in up to 90% of cats infected with FELV. The cancer may affect the:
1. lungs causing distressed breathing, and/or
2. the digestive system leading to vomiting, diarrhea, and/or constipation.
Cancer can also target the liver or kidneys as well as the eyes, which turn a cloudy color. If the central nervous system is involved, brain and/or spinal cord abnormalities result.
Diagnosis is based on blood tests that detect Feline Leukemia Virus. These tests are 99 percent accurate. A cat infected with FELV can live for months to years. True life expectancy is impossible to predict. Since the virus suppresses your cat’s ability to naturally protect himself, he becomes much more susceptible to other infections and needs to be monitored.
There is no cure for Feline Leukemia Infection or Disease. All cases are ultimately fatal. A variety of anticancer medications have been tried, some produce temporary remission. Various antiviral compounds, including Interferon, have been used. These antiviral medications are safer than anticancer therapies and some extend the remission period. None produce a permanent cure.
It is possible that additional research will find an antiviral therapy to cure Feline Leukemia Disease in the future.
NOTE: To date there is no evidence that FELV can be transmitted to people nor is there any known association between Feline Leukemia Virus and Human AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). There is also no data to document that FELV can be carried by or cause illness in dogs. A vaccine is available (X Ref Pg ) and is recommended for cats at high exposure (i.e., outdoor cats, show cats).
FELINE LEUKEMIA VIRUS VACCINE (FELV VACCINE)
Feline Leukemia Virus (FELV) is the leading killer of cats today. A vaccine is available but cats should be blood tested negative first, because the vaccine is ineffective in cats already infected with FELV. The vaccine requires 2 initial doses 3 to 4 weeks apart with annual boosters and can be given to kittens at 8-12 weeks of age. Prolonged cat-to-cat contact is usually necessary for disease transmission. Owners with cats at high risk of exposure, such as outdoor cats and show cats, should consider vaccination.
(FELV DISEASE X REF PAGE )
The Leukemia Vaccine’s side effects range from minor pain at the injection site to diarrhea. Side effects occur in 14 percent of cats, mostly kittens.