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Feline Leukemia Virus – Feline Leukemia Symptoms

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.

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11 Responses to “Feline Leukemia Virus – Feline Leukemia Symptoms”

  1. Jennifer Dickson Says:

    I have a question. We are having to put down a cat that we aquired about 10 months ago and I’m believing that it may have feline leukemia after reading about the symptoms. Many of them fit, they also fit that of his sister that we had for only a short time then had to get rid of due to “illness”. Anyhow, my question is this: I am 8 months pregnant and have been in contact with this cat…not as much since I’ve been pregnant, but still quite a bit. If he does have feline leukemia, what are the chances that this could harm my unborn child? I see where pregnant women should stay away from cats infected with this disease. Do you know if there’s an antibiotic that they can give me at the birth of my child that could prevent any complications to him, or is it just a wait it out and see thing? Thank you.

  2. Cat Health Says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    I am so sorry to hear about the cats. To be honest, this is a question which is more of a human nature. I suggest that you seek your GP’s consultant. He would be able to give you a better understanding of how diseases can or cannot be transmitted from domestic pets.

    It would be great if you could also update us after you have seek your GP’s opinion.

    Thank you.

  3. cathy Says:

    SO SORRY TO HEAR BOUT YOUR CAT..i recently had mine sent off to a spay/neuter clinic..came back i needed to get him tested for lukemia/aids.:(…test came back positive..i took this cat in ..he was a stray..i took him to the vet he told me i could had him put to sleep or if i bring him home keep him indoors and he could live up to 2 yrs…hes doing good so far..hes only bout 9 mo old…
    i’m not real sure bout you and your baby ive heard same thing but id ask my drs to be sure…i wish you a safe delivery and i pray all turns out ok..God Bless…..cathy

  4. sylvia p. jaime Says:

    My cat was diagnoses with feline leukimia july 2005, and its octber 2009, and she’s doing well, so far…I try to keep her indoors and due let her go outside each day 2hrs.
    I’ve taken her un numerous occasions to four different vet clinics to double check if she does have the feline virus, and always comes out positive.
    Theres been times when sabrina don’t look to good, and periods were she’s her old self, so what i do rather i treat her with pediatric (unflavored water), or pedialite when she vomits or has diarrhea, due to the fact that she looses lots of flouids, and nutri-cal (about $10.00 in any vet clinic), is a high calorie palatable dietary supplement for cats and dogs too, provides supplemental calories and nutritional intake…Just recently i found out about the feline leukemia vaccine <LYMPHO T-CELL IMMUNOMODULATOR (LTCI) or 1-800-367-6359, or

  5. Jennifer T Says:

    Sylvia, PLEASE do not let your cat go outside at all – not even for 2 hours!! First of all, if your cat is positive for Feline Leukemia it is super easy for her to give the disease to other cats she meets outside. That’s not fair to the other cats.

    Secondly, she’s got a compromised immune system because of the Feline Leukemia, and any diseases she picks up from other cats or mosquito bites or rotten food or garbage or dirt or whatever could make her very, very sick… sicker than a healthy cat would get, because her body can’t fight it off. That’s not fair to her.

  6. Carolyn Says:

    My cat Tiki has started loosing her hair around the back hind area and the base of her tail, she constantly uses her litter box to urinate, has a regular stool and her appetite seems the same. I don’t know why she is loosing the hair. There has been no changes in her food so could you please help me to figure out what is wrong. I was afraid she may have Feline Leukemia could this be a sign of it? Thank you I hope to hear some good news from you and by the way she is about 13 years old.


  7. Rhae Says:

    The best way to know, for sure, if any of your cats are FeLV positive is to have them tested. There is a basic test called a ‘SNAP’ test (similar to a store bought home pregnancy test). What I mean by this is that is can tell you if the disease in in your cat/kitten’s blood stream.

    This is only a preliminary test should it come up positive. The reason for this is because there are several stages to this disease.

    In order to diagnose whether a cat is carrying or truly has the disease (for life), you must have a more in-depth test done (typically referred to as an I.F.A. test). This is a more extensive blood panel that can determine if the leukemia cells have gotten in to the bone marrow &/or central nervous system.

    Again, have the blood tests done before you begin worrying about any symptoms in your cat. On the other hand, if they do produce a positive, immediately isolate your cat from all other cats & keep them indoors… until you can have the I.F.A. test.

    Talk with your vet about the options to prolong your cats life and I also highly recommend doing a LOT of research online… paying particular attention to the more recent scientific findings & treatments.

    It doesn’t have to mean a ‘death sentence’ for your pet but it definitely requires a change in their lifestyle.

    Good luck,

  8. Karen Calhoun Says:

    Our cat was diagnosed with feline leukemia at only 8 wks. old. She is now almost 2 yrs. and has only had 1 serious bout with infection a year ago. She has a respiratory infection all the time, sneezes a lot, she’s our little “snotty cat.” Most of the time she seems ok, however, I have noticed some diahrrea lately. we didn’t know whether to attribute this to the virus or to being in heat. Today, however, I noticed that one of her eyes is not dilating. Never noticed this before. Is this one of the eye problems mentioned above? Our vet told me he was really surprised she was still hanging in there as sick as she was last year.


  9. Ashley Says:

    I just found out that my cat has feline leukemia, I just recently heard about the correlation between childhood leukemia and feline leukemia and this, of course, arouses concern. I have done research by visiting the websites of the World Health Organization and The Centers for Disease control and Prevention, neither of which were much help. I almost gave up, dismissing what I though was a crazy theory anyway, when I saw this and what you said about pregnant women and young children avoiding the infected cats. I would like to know more, no one seems to want to elaborate which is very frustrating…. any information would be useful. THANKS!

  10. Jackie Says:

    my cat is almost 3 yrs. old and has just started to show some signs of being sick. He has a good appetite but has lost a lot of weight. he seems like he is not really suffering or in any pain. His one eye is cloudy and he coughs and wheezes all the time. i noticed his wheezeing when he was just a kitten. As I am not in a position and cannot afford to take him to the vet, is there anything i can do at home for him? He does go outside but i try to keep him in as much as i can.

  11. kay Says:

    Hello, I found out that my cat lily has Leukemia. I was so sad because I love her so much. She is not eating. She lost alot of weight. I am so worried because I dont know what stage she is at with the Leukemia. I took her to the vet, which they are no help they just want the money. My question is how can I check for myself if the disease is still in her.

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