The feline leukemia virus, FeLV, is a highly contagious, fatal virus that is spread among cats through saliva, nasal secretions, urine, feces, and to kittens through milk from infected mothers. Feline leukemia can be spread between cats by cat bites and an infected cat grooming an uninfected cat. This disease can be spread through shared cat dishes and litter boxes, though infection through this type of contact is rare.
The signs and symptoms of feline leukemia are loss of appetite, weight loss, fever, and diarrhea. Feline leukemia can cause the cat’s coat to be in poor condition. It can cause enlarged lymph nodes, inflammation of the mouth, and pale gums. Cats with feline leukemia can have urinary tract infections, seizures, or eye problems.
Feline leukemia can cause cancer in infected cats. The feline leukemia virus impairs the cat’s immune system. This weakening of the immune system makes the infected cats more susceptible to other illnesses. Feline leukemia can cause blood disorders in infected cats.
There are two stages to feline leukemia. The first stage is called primary viremia. The cat’s immune system may be able to fight the infection. The second stage of feline leukemia is secondary viremia. The second stage is characterized by infection of the bone marrow and other body tissues.
Feline Leukemia Treatment
A veterinarian diagnoses feline leukemia by blood test. If a cat receives a feline leukemia diagnosis, the cat owner can attempt to prolong the cat’s life and help sustain good health with supportive care. A healthy diet and regular veterinary care can help promote the cat’s health. The cat owner should avoid feeding the cat raw food since the cat’s immune system may be compromised and prone to infections including those associated with raw meat.
Unfortunately, most cats will die within two or three years from the time the infection occurred. Though there has not been established evidence to prove that feline leukemia can be transmitted to humans, some precautions are recommended. People who have compromised immune systems, such as the elderly or people with AIDS should avoid contact with a feline leukemia infected cat. Pregnant women and young children should also avoid exposure to feline leukemia.