Feline Leukemia Virus

Feline Leukemia is a serious feline disease that is found everywhere in the world. Cats can carry the virus for a long time before showing any symptoms. It is spread from cat to cat through licking (saliva), other body fluids (tears, urine, nasal discharge), bite wounds, stool and can be passed from mother to kittens. Studies have shown that a high percentage of cats infected with Feline Leukemia (more than 75%) die within 3 years. Some cats can shred the virus and not develop the disease.

Feline Leukemia weakens the immune system. This makes the cat more susceptible to other diseases and infections. It may cause anemia, intestinal inflammation or even cancer. Advanced stages cause infection in the bone marrow and tissue. Young kittens are most at risk but adult cats can contract the virus.

Feline Leukemia is recommended when bringing a new cat into the household. Testing may be recommended if your cat is showing signs of illness. Our doctors may recommend doing a blood test to check for Feline Leukemia since the disease can cause your cat to catch other viruses, infections or disease. Shelters and rescues are starting to test cats brought into their facilities to help prevent the spread of the disease.

Symptoms can include continued gum infection, chronic diarrhea, weight loss, fever, lethargy and upper respiratory tract infections.

The test for Feline Leukemia is a blood test and can be performed and results obtained in the duration of an appointment. On occasion, the test may be sent out to a laboratory. It is recommended that cats be tested for Feline Leukemia prior to receiving the vaccine.

Vaccines have been developed to help provide protection against Feline Leukemia virus. The initial vaccine is administered with a second vaccine given in 3-4 weeks. Your doctor can help you decide if the vaccine is recommended for your pet after discussing the cat’s lifestyle. The vaccine is designed to protect the cat receiving it from getting the virus, especially for cats who go outside and may be exposed to the virus by coming into contact with unprotected cats.

There is no treatment for Feline Leukemia specifically. Usually treatment involves treating infections caused by the disease and helping to relieve the symptoms. Cats that test positive for the disease should be kept strictly indoors and away from other cats to avoid spreading the disease. Neutering also helps reduce the spread of infection. Routine examinations should be performed (at least once yearly) to monitor the pet for signs of disease. Routine blood work may also be recommended.

We are glad to give more information. Please feel free to call with any questions. Call to make an appointment if you suspect your cat has been exposed to Feline Leukemia.