What is Feline Leukemia?
Feline Leukemia, also known as FeLV, affects a cat’s immune system and is cancer-causing. This is a lifelong disease which can be treated but never cured.
Are There Any Breeds Particularly Affected?
There are not breeds particularly affected by FeLV; however, males are more likely to contract FeLV than females. FeLV is also mainly seen in cats aged one to six.
The symptoms of FeLV are based upon the type of Feline Leukemia the cat has. There are three types as follows:
- FeLV-A: Type A occurs in all cats and weakens the immune system.
- FeLV-B: This occurs in about 50 percent of cats and results in abnormal tissue growth
- FelV-C: This is not common but results in severe anemia.
Cats can have only Type A but Type A may also be accompanied by B and or C. Generalized symptoms include:
- Lethargic behavior
- Weight loss
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Ear infections
- Unhealthy coat
- Gum inflammation
Causes of FeLV
Feline leukemia is contagious meaning it can be transferred from cat to cat via a bite, close contact, grooming and/or sharing a litterbox. Kittens will also contract FeLV if the mother cat is FeLV positive.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your veterinarian is not likely to immediately believe your cat has FeLV. First, your veterinarian will check for bacterial, parasitic, viral and fungal infections. A blood screen will be performed as well as a urinalysis and a biopsy.
If your cat is diagnosed with FeLV, your veterinarian will prescribe medication to treat the symptoms of FeLV but the cat will always be FeLV positive. An annual vaccination following this visit to prevent respiratory and intestinal viruses will be recommended. The cat often does not require veterinary hospitalization unless there is a secondary disease or infection to treat. For example, if your cat has a low red-blood cell count, a blood transfusion may be necessary. A special diet may also be recommended.