Cat leukemia - unlike human leukemia - is an infectious disease. This is one of the most serious causes of death for young cats
- Cat's advice
- Cat health
How is it infected?
The disease is caused by FeLV retrovirus, which does not spread to other species. For an infection to occur, direct contact with a sick cat is necessary, especially with its excreta: saliva, faeces, urine, and the cat's milk. Saliva is believed to be the most dangerous: a female cat infects her offspring by licking them, kittens lick each other while playing, and young males come into contact with saliva when bitten. The use of shared bowls also offers such an opportunity. Kittens may also become infected in utero. Additionally, the virus can be passed on by fleas and their faeces.
The younger the kitten, the lower its immunity. Its visible growth is observed after approximately four months of life. Cats staying in clusters (farms, shelters or free-living colonies) can easily come into contact with the virus.
How a cat might react to the virus:
- becomes infected with the virus and will be its carrier for the rest of his life (3-4 years)
- gets infected with the virus, gets sick for a short time and develops immunity for life
- will not get infected, but will not get immunity to the virus
The weight loss caused by anemia is noticeable. The cat becomes lethargic, loses its appetite, and becomes dehydrated. The disease is chronic, it develops slowly, gradually reducing the body's resistance. A cat easily develops any infections (inflammation of the respiratory tract, urinary tract, gums, gastrointestinal tract or external auditory canals, abscesses or difficult-to-heal wounds).
There may also be a malignant process that results in lymphomas or lymphosarcomas. Neoplastic changes, in turn, can cause neurological disorders, i.e. paresis, paralysis, and urinary incontinence. Sick cats sometimes suffer from miscarriage or fetal death, as well as infertility.
How is leukemia diagnosed?
If the symptoms indicate it, it is necessary to perform the plate ELISA test, which is repeated 12 weeks apart, because the disease may be in a phase where the test result will not give us a definite answer.
How do I look after a sick cat?
We can only delay the development of the disease. So you have to:
- protect the cat from stress, as it reduces its immunity even more,
- improve the quality of life by combating secondary infections, hydrating the body, administering painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs,
- strengthen with a diet - rich, but not overburdening the kidneys or liver (preferably agreed with the veterinarian).
There are more and more drugs that slow down the disease. There has been interferon for animals for some time - an equivalent of a preparation that is used in humans in diseases that lead to decreased immunity (eg AIDS).
What is prophylaxis?
It is important to isolate your cat from potential virus carriers and to prevent flea contamination. Before introducing a second or another cat into the house, a double ELISA test should be performed, approximately 12 weeks apart from each other.
Another issue is vaccinations. We vaccinate healthy cats only, not infected with the leukemia virus. The safest thing is to have an injection in the hind paw. For many years, the application of the vaccine to the neck or side area has been considered a medical malpractice for many years due to the possibility of post-vaccination sarcoma (a malignant tumor in cats caused by adjuvants - irritating components of the vaccine). If the vaccine is injected into a limb, it will be removed with the tumor if it develops. Living without a hind leg is difficult, but possible.
If we know for sure that our cat is healthy (confirmed by a clinical examination and a double ELISA test), does not come into contact with other cats, is not an outdoor cat, will not be presented at exhibitions (vaccination is a requirement there), we do not have to vaccinate it.