What is it?
• Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is a retrovirus that commonly infects cats.
• It is very widespread in the cat population.
• It can cause a permanent infection which may lead to suppression of the immune system, certain cancers, and various bone marrow disorders.
• Although many cats display no symptoms, symptoms can include fever, lethargy, enlarged lymph nodes, and muscle weakness.
What causes it?
• FeLV is spread by close contact, such as from a mother to kitten through milk or the placenta.
• It is spread in saliva, urine, feces, milk, and tears.
• FeLV can also be spread through blood transfusions and infected equipment.
What tests are necessary?
• Because this condition spreads easily and symptoms are not always evident, cats should be tested for FeLV at some point in their lives to ensure they have not contracted it.
• Testing is done prior to vaccination for the virus.
• Routine lab tests and x-rays are used to examine symptoms.
• Further tests can be conducted to see if the cat has anemia, leukemia, or low white blood cell and platelet count. These tests are normally recommended if the lymph nodes are enlarged or the bone marrow is affected.
How is it treated?
• Many cats seem to eliminate the virus and become immune on their own with no treatment.
• Unfortunately there is no treatment to eliminate the virus, given it spreads to the bone marrow.
• Cats that are FeLV positive and show clinical signs are treated with appropriate medications.
What follow up care is needed?
• FeLV positive cats should be kept away from other felines and avoid breeding.
• It is recommended that infected cats see their veterinarian at least bi-annually for an exam and complete blood profile.
• The majority of cats pass within three years of diagnosis, but many adult cats with this diagnosis may live a normal, healthy life.