What is Feline Leukemia? What are the Signs and is There Treatment?
Feline Leukemia Virus
One of the more popular killers of pet cats is Feline Leukemia. It is actually the second most common killer, right next to car accidents. It is a very common virus that pet cats can and do carry. The statistics show that about one in every ten cats is a carrier of the Feline Leukemia Virus, and yet not very many cat owners know much about the illness.
Many people consider Feline Leukemia as the AIDS of the cat world, which in a way it is. I mean, when you bring in that cute kitten that you found at work, you may not realize that when the new kitten shares the food bowl or litter box with your current cats, he may be spreading Feline Leukemia.
With Feline Leukemia there are a few different things that can actually happen. They include:
- The cat's immune system may kill the virus on its own.
- The Feline Leukemia Virus may enter the body and lodge into the bone marrow and lymphoid tissues, where it can just sit for years without the cat ever showing signs until some stress brings it out.
- The virus can replicate and cause illness and death.
What Causes Feline Leukemia
Feline Leukemia is actually caused by a virus, which of course is named simple enough, the Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV).
An infected cat or a carrier of the Feline Leukemia Virus can infect other cats via their saliva, nasal secretions, tears, urine, and feces. So basically, an infected cat or a carrier cat can spread the virus via sharing a litter box, water bowl, and food bowl.
It is thought that mother cats can spread the Feline Leukemia Virus to its unborn kittens via the placenta. The Feline Leukemia Virus has also been found in the mother cat's milk, to which again gets passed to the kittens.
The most common place that you will see Feline Leukemia is in outdoor cats, especially outdoor male cats. When they fight, they end up with open wounds and whatnot, to which the Feline Leukemia Virus can spread from one male cat to another and then to a female cat and then to her kittens. But, that doesn't mean that your inside cat cannot get Feline Leukemia because remember it must be transferred cat to cat, so when you adopt a new cat or bring in a stray, you could be bringing in the virus.
Have all cats tested before you bring them into your home. Make sure that they are negative for the Feline Leukemia Virus.
Signs of Feline Leukemia
There are a number of symptoms that your cat may show. During the first few weeks after initially being exposed, a cat may show the following signs of Feline Leukemia:
- Deficiency of any various cellular elements normally in the blood
- General illness
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Mild fever
Other signs that you may notice throughout some stage of Feline Leukemia can include:
- Blood in the stool
- Chronic and recurring infections
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased stamina
- Excessive drinking
- Excessive urination
- Hind limb paralysis
- Low-grade fever
- Lymphoid or myeloid tumors
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss
Symptoms of Feline Leukemia in pregnant cats can include:
- Fetal resorption
- Increased susceptibility to secondary bacterial or viral infections
- Lack of appetite
- Loss of body mass
- Spontaneous abortion
- Stunted Growth
Because about 30% of cats with Feline Leukemia end up developing cancer, you may want to be aware of the signs of myeloid tumors or lymphomas
- Cloudy eyes
- Intestinal inflammation
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Neurological abnormalities
- Respiratory distress
Feline Leukemia Test At Home
Pre-paid test at home kit for Feline Leukemia. Simply collect a small saliva or tear sample on a paper strip, place in the pre-paid envelope, and mail to the testing lab. Test is performed within 24 hours. Results sent to you via e-mail, fax, or mail.
Testing for Feline Leukemia
The test for Feline Leukemia is pretty simple. The vet will draw about a tenth of a teaspoon of blood from the cat's front leg. The blood is then processed and whether the cat has the Feline Leukemia Virus is determined in just minutes.
If the test is positive, then that means that the cat has been exposed to the virus, but if the test shows negative, then the cat has not had exposure to the Feline Leukemia Virus.
If the tests are positive, most vets will send off a blood sample to see if the actual virus is present because the cat could have been exposed but recovered or the virus could just be latent in the blood marrow.
All vets should have the proper tests for Feline Leukemia in the office.
Feline Leukemia Treatment
Once your cat has been tested positive for Feline Leukemia, there really isn't any treatment that you can pay for. The best thing that you can do is to make sure that the infected cat cannot pass the Feline Leukemia Virus to non-infected cats.
You can try the Lymphocyte T-Cell Immune Modulator, but it is not a 100% success treatment, and not all vets practice this treatment.
The best treatment for Feline Leukemia is prevention. You want to make sure that you have all cats that you plan on bringing home tested for the virus.
You also want to make sure that all cats who are negative for Feline Leukemia Virus are given the vaccination that helps prevent Feline Leukemia. The shots are typically given three weeks a part, and although they can not fully prevent the virus, it will give the cat better immunity against contracting the Feline Leukemia Virus.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a veterinarian.