Though feline leukemia is not a very common disease, it is the one of the most dangerous diseases that can affect cats. This is also the reason why feline leukemia is likened to AIDS in the context of mankind. It has been observed that the changes that HIV brings about in the human immune system are similar to what the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) does to the immune system of the cats. A cat infected by this virus is likely to die within three years of contracting this infection. As it is such a dangerous disease, it is important for cat owners to know about the details of this disease. Even more so if you have many cats as pets and one of them has been detected of this virus.
Causes and Transmission
Feline leukemia virus can be transmitted to a healthy cat from another having the FeL virus. It has been observed that it is usually found in stray cats because usually, the transmission of this disease takes place during cat fights and mating, through saliva and blood. Also, cats which groom each other and share their food, litter box, etc., can also transmit this virus to one another.
Infected cats that are pregnant may also transmit it to the kittens while they are still in the womb. It has also been found that this virus can be transmitted from the mother cat to the kittens during nursing and day-to-day caring. However, though this disease is likened to AIDS, FeLV can never be transmitted to humans.
Not all cats that get infected by the feline leukemia virus start having health problems. It has been conjectured that most cats have the ability to put up a fight against the infection, from which many of them succeed to get rid of the virus from their system. However, the cats which are not able to do so will start showing the symptoms of this disease within a year or two. While some cats having the infection will not show any major symptoms, they will still carry the virus in the blood and are likely to spread the virus to other cats.
Some of the symptoms that are seen in cats which have this disease include loss of appetite, anemia, gum inflammation, diarrhea, weight loss, weakness, and enlarged lymph nodes. Other signs that may indicate the presence of FeLV in the blood include reproductive disorders, stillbirths, etc.
Treatment and Prevention
Sadly, there is no treatment or medication that can get rid of the feline leukemia virus and cure this disease. However, there are certain medications that can help suppress the symptoms and improve the cat's quality of life. Other treatments will be recommended by the vet according to the specific health problems faced by the cat. This leaves cat owners with only one option: to take all the precautionary measures to prevent one's cat being affected by the virus in the first place. The best way of doing so is to keep one's cat indoors.
If one has two or more cats and one of them has been tested positive for FeLV, then it is important to keep this cat isolated from the others. There is also a vaccination for feline leukemia, however, they come with certain side effects and can cause other health problems in the pet. Hence, this vaccine is recommended only to cats which have a high risk factor of getting this infection.
As it is a contagious disease, the only way you can save your cat from getting infected is by taking the proper precautionary measures. Even if your cat has been tested positive, you do not have to euthanize it immediately. Rather, consult the vet who can recommend certain treatments with which your cat will be able to live a long as well as healthy life.