Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV): When should your cat be tested?

Few infectious diseases of cats have the emotional and physical impact of feline retrovirus infections, more commonly referred to as Feline Immunodefficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). The incidence of FeLV and FIV in cats both stray and homed, is staggering.

Direct transfers of bodily fluids, such as saliva, are needed to transmit both of these infections from cat to cat. FeLV is typically spread during friendly behaviors like grooming or sharing common food and water bowls. FIV is primarily transmitted via deep punctures and scratches during fighting where saliva from an infected cat enters the body.

In the case of FeLV, young kittens are susceptible to infection in part because the virus can be transmitted from infected mother cats. Young cats are at greatest risk of infection if exposed but older cats may become infected as well. All kittens over 8-weeks of age should be tested when first presented for vaccinations.

Both diseases can be slow to develop and clinical signs arrive at varying times after infection. Both viruses may be found in cats that are seemingly healthy and free of clinical symptoms. Although FIV is not always fatal in cats, it can produce carrier states that spread the disease for years.

Early detection of feline immunodeficiency virus is an important aspect of caring for cats, particularly cats with other diseases, and in preventing the virus's spread. By knowing the FIV infection status of all cats, we can help pet owners make critical decisions about medical care, protect the health of both FIV-positive and -negative cats, and give cat owners peace of mind."

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) suggests FeLV and FIV testing for:

• Cats and kittens when they are first acquired

Even when animals come with a set of medical records, often they are housed or fostered around other cats/kittens. This allows for the virus' to spread

• Cats and kittens before initial vaccinations

• Sick cats, even if they have tested negative in the past

• Cats with known recent exposure to a retrovirus-infected cat or to a cat with

unknown status, particularly via a bite wound, regardless of previous test results

• Cats living in households with other cats infected with FeLV or FIV; on an annual basis unless they are isolated

• Cats with high-risk lifestyles (e.g. cats that have access to the outdoors- epecially in and around Philadelphia, where feral cat numbers are constantly on the rise)

In short, these diseases are NOT curable and are largely preventable; there is no down side to testing cats for feline retrovirus infections! Remember - prevention is key!

If you have any questions about whether your furrbaby should be tested, please contact our Veterinary staff!

Girard Veterinary Clinic

2806 W. Girard Ave.

Philadelphia PA 19130



sources: http://www.pethealthnetwork.com ; www. avma.org


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