Feline Leukemia Virus: What You Need to Know

feline leukemia
Feline leukemia (FeLV) is a virus that weakens your cat's immune system. Unfortunately, when the immune system does not function properly, your cat may be more likely to develop other diseases, such as cancer and blood disorders.

How Cats Contract Feline Leukemia

Cats get feline leukemia from other cats. The virus is spread in saliva, urine, feces, nasal secretions and milk from nursing mothers. When an infected cat bites or grooms another cat, that cat may develop the virus. If a pregnant cat has feline leukemia, the kittens might be born with the disease or may develop it after nursing. Because kittens have weaker immune systems than older cats, they are more likely to suffer from the virus. Cats can also spread the virus by sharing food dishes or litter boxes; although this does not happen very often.

Symptoms of Feline Leukemia

There may be no symptoms of the disease during the earlier stages. In the later stages, symptoms may be similar to those that are also typical of other types of viruses. Depending on the stage of the disease, a cat infected with feline leukemia may experience:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Gradual weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Eye disorders
  • Pale gums or inflammation of the gums
  • Poor coat
  • Anemia
  • Skin, bladder or upper respiratory tract infections
  • Seizures
  • Behavioral changes
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Diagnosis and Treatment

Feline leukemia is diagnosed via a blood test that detects a protein found in the virus. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease. Many infected cats die within two to three years of being diagnosed. Although there is no treatment for feline leukemia, symptoms can be treated to keep your cat more comfortable. If weight loss is a problem, nutritional supplements will help your cat receive necessary nutrients. Your cat may get sick more often because of his weakened immune system, but these infections can often be treated with antibiotics.

Prevention

The FeLV vaccine will help prevent your cat from developing feline leukemia, but it does not offer an absolute guarantee that your cat will never get the virus. The best way to protect your furry friend is to keep him or her indoors. When cats roam, they are more likely to come in contact with infected cats that may transmit the virus through a bite.

Before you bring a new pet into your home, make sure that it has been tested for the feline leukemia virus. If one of your cats does develop the virus, separate it from your other cats to prevent the spread of the disease.

Has your cat had an examination and feline leukemia shot recently? If not, give us a call to schedule an appointment.

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    I love Callahan Drive Animal Hospital! Best Veterinarian & Staff in Knoxville been going here for 15 years ! Only place I trust with my fur babies ! Everyone is helpful and friendly and they really care about your animals highly recommend !

    Tracy S.

    Took my 3 y/o tortoise recently and I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was the vet knowledgeable and kind, but the overall visit (including an x-ray) was reasonably priced. I definitely recommend and I will be returning for future services

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    This group loves animals! Everyone is so kind and helpful! This Vet loves sharing information too! Wouldn’t go anywhere else!

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    This is the best vet I’ve ever took my dog to I couldn’t see myself going anywhere else they took very good care of my son and I feel so much better knowing exactly what’s wrong with him very very sweet staff thank you soooooooo much Dr.Hilla and staff

    Diane J.

    Doc Villa ALWAYS takes care of Studly Dudley!! I will ALWAYS recommend Callahan Drive Animal Hospital & their entire team as they truly do care for your animal in the same way you do!! Dr Villa has cared for Dudley for most of his SIXTEEN years & he’s still happy, healthy & strong!! I strongly believe, Stud has made it to this old age so gracefully due to the care he’s been given with this facility!! I would not trust another team than Callahan Animal with my “first child”, the only place for us to go!! Highly recommended!!

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    10/10 experience was even better than hoped for. As a snake owner, you hear things about vets that make you question taking them and it was very comforting and nice to have someone who not only helped but took the time to talk about caring for them properly. Thank you guys so much!

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