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Pet Me! Magazine™ JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2015

FeLV: Feline Leukemia Virus By Jaimie Ronchetto, DVM

F

eline leukemia virus is a very serious disease of cats. It is a retrovirus that is spread from cat to cat via secretions: saliva and blood being the most common. An infected cat may pass on the virus by grooming another cat, via blood or saliva from cat fights, or from mother to fetus during pregnancy. The virus does not live very long outside of the cat’s body and is easily killed with household disinfectants. Kittens and young cats, as well as cats that go outside or from catteries, are at increased risk. Most cats (about 70%) that are exposed or become infected can eliminate the virus and will become immune. However, in those cats that do not clear the infection, the virus suppresses the immune system and can make the cat much more prone to secondary infections. Later on in the disease process, the virus can affect the bone marrow, causing anemia, or cause lymphoma. Cats that are carriers of the virus may look apparently healthy or they may exhibit any of these signs: lethargy, fever, anorexia, diarrhea, progressive weight loss and weakness, pale or yellow mucous membranes, enlarged lymph nodes, infections of the bladder, skin or respiratory tracts. There are very easy tests your veterinarian can perform to

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test for the presence of the FeLV virus. The first test typically done is an ELISA test (typically referred to as an FeLV snap test at most hospitals). The ELISA test is a reliable test as it is very sensitive and checks for FeLV proteins in the cat’s blood. Because it is so sensitive, it can detect very early disease. Another blood test, called the IFA test, detects more progressive disease. Usually if a cat tests positive for ELISA, the veterinarian will then run the IFA test at an outside laboratory to confirm. The veterinarian may recommend other diagnostic tests if the cat is showing other clinical signs as well. There is no effective treatment for the virus and 85% of persistently infected cats will die within three years of the diagnosis. That is why vaccination against this virus is so important, especially for indoor-outdoor cats and those who live in shelters and catteries. All cats should be tested for FeLV first, to make sure they are negative for the disease prior to receiving the vaccine. FeLV infected cats should be seen by a veterinarian twice a year to monitor their health, which helps to prevent secondary infections. Additionally, any FeLV infected cat should be kept strictly indoors to help prevent spread to other cats.

Profile for Pet Me! Magazine

January/February 2015 Issue of Pet Me! Magazine  

A pet magazine with a focus on education, adoption, rescue and animal welfare. This issue features SMITTEN KITTENS, FeLV: FELINE LEUKEMIA VI...

January/February 2015 Issue of Pet Me! Magazine  

A pet magazine with a focus on education, adoption, rescue and animal welfare. This issue features SMITTEN KITTENS, FeLV: FELINE LEUKEMIA VI...

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