The Truth About FIV in Cats
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a lentivirus that attacks and weakens the immune system. Characterized by a relatively long incubation period, FIV in cats is both common and dangerous.
To support a cat’s vitality and longevity, prevention is key. There is no known cure for FIV in cats, but there are effective strategies for managing symptoms of the disease.
A Lot to Unpack
It’s worth noting that cats infected with FIV can still live normal, even healthy, lives. Because of a lengthy period with no obvious symptoms, many cats can live for years before they become vulnerable to bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. As a result, it’s imperative that indoor-outdoor cats receive routine testing so they may receive treatment that slows down the effects of the virus.
A Focused Path Forward
FIV in cats doesn’t automatically shorten lifespan. However, if a cat also tests positive for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), they can become very sick.
Both viruses are transmitted via saliva in bite wounds, but FeLV can also be passed from shared bowls and allogrooming. Mothers can also pass FIV to their babies. Both diseases are cat-specific and cannot be passed to other species. It cannot be transmitted by holding, cuddling, or petting a FIV-positive cat. It cannot live long on surfaces or textiles.
FIV in cats has three phases: the acute, asymptomatic, and the progressive. As the disease moves into the third stage, cats suffer from secondary infections, and are likely to develop cancer, neurologic disorders, behavioral problems, or blood disorders.
FIV in cats may cause any of the following symptoms:
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Gum and mouth inflammation
- Skin inflammation
- Slow-healing wounds
- Hair loss
- Eye inflammation with or without discharge
- Strained or increased urination, or peeing outside the box
- Behavioral changes
Secondary infections are common in FIV-positive cats, and require longer or more intense prescriptions of antibiotics.
A Little TLC
FIV in cats is detected with a simple blood test. While there is no treatment for the disease, there are strategies to support a normal, happy life.
Once FIV in cats is tested and diagnosed, owners should make adjustments at home. Living among other species in the home is harmless, but other cats should be tested and possibly separated from your FIV-positive cat.
If your pet cats can coexist without fighting or rough-housing, you may be able to maintain the status quo. Limiting the possibility of cat bites is paramount to FIV-negative cats in a shared environment with FIV-positive cats.
Indoor-only cats are much safer than cats allowed to roam.
So Worthy of Love
If you plan on bringing a new cat into your home, be sure that they are fully vaccinated. Keep yearly or bi-annual wellness exams in order to keep all pets up to date. By doing so you are also facilitating early detection of disease and proper care. Spaying and neutering cats can help keep them safe from wandering and getting into fights.
There are vaccines that prevent both FeLV and FIV. They are typically recommended for cats that go outdoors, but can be essential in multi-cat homes.
Please call us at (630) 428-0500 if you notice any odd or sudden changes in your cat’s behavior. We’re always here for you at Springbrook Animal Care Center.
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We are not accepting appointments at this time for exams and doctor visits.
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