Feline Leukemia Virus

This virus only infects cats and can be prevented with vaccinations but usually these are additional to the annual cat vaccines given by most veterinarians.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) can be transmitted among cats in close prolonged contact with each other. It is transmitted through saliva, urine, and other bodily fluids. It can also be passed from an infected pregnant cat to her unborn kitten or to her new born kitten in her milk or through maternal grooming.

Clinical signs of FeLV are varied and often very non-specific such as:

 

  • Weight loss,
  • Weakness,
  • Anaemia,
  • Fever,
  • Dehydration,
  • Nasal congestion and discharge,
  • Diarrhoea,
  • Conjunctivitis,
  • Sores in the mouth,
  • Enlarged lymph nodes, and/or abscesses under the skin.

 

The virus also infects white blood cells resulting in a weakened immune system making infected cats susceptible to other infections.

Some cats with FeLV will remain completely asymptomatic for their entire lives and never have any health problems, but they are contagious and will continue to spread the virus.

FeLV needs to be tested for as part of a routine health screen, such as when adopting a new cat or evaluating a cat’s other health issues. When FeLV is suspected by a veterinarian they will perform a blood test. It must be remembered that cats recently infected can give a false negative result.

There is no specific treatment and nothing that will cure the cat of the virus. Managing an FeLV positive cat means be vigilant with health care and vet checks.

A responsible owner of an FeLV positive cat keep the cat as an indoor house cat to eliminate transmission to neighbourhood cats.

If you want to get a new cat or kitten to join your existing feline family it is advisable to get them tested first.

 

The FeLV vaccines start off with a course of two vaccinations, one month apart and then booster vaccines given yearly.

These vaccinations are R300 when given with a usual yearly booster vaccination.

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