You may have noticed when you bring a new feline addition in for their first appointment we always ask you about the Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) test. These diseases are relatively unknown by feline owners, but unfortunately not to veterinary professionals. Fortunately, there are ways to test, prevent, and manage these diseases.
Both Feline Leukemia and FIV suppress the immune system, making patients
more susceptible to recurrent infections, secondary infections, and cancer. FIV is considered “mean cat disease” and is transmitted through bite and scratch wounds. Intact free-roaming male cats are most likely to contract FIV from getting in scuffles with infected cats. Feline Leukemia is considered “nice cat disease” as it can be transferred through saliva, grooming, nose to nose contact, and sharing bowls. These diseases are species specific and are not considered zoonotic, meaning there is no risk to you as an owner or your family dog.
When Petcetera Animal Clinic tests your cat for Feline Leukemia and FIV we use an ELISA Snap test from IDEXX. This test takes 3 drops of blood, 4 drops of conjugate, and 10 minutes. The test detects FIV antibodies (proteins the body provides to help protect itself from the virus) and Feline Leukemia antigens (parts of virus). If your cat appears positive, a secondary blood sample to should be sent to a diagnostic lab to confirm positive. Positive ELISA and Positive secondary test – your pet is viral infected for life. Positive ELISA and Negative secondary test – may be transient infection and should be re-tested in 3-4 months. False positive results for FIV can occur if the cat was recently vaccinated, in kittens less than 6 months old who still have maternal antibodies, and due to test error. False negatives have also been known to occur in cats that are tested too early and haven’t built up antibodies and in terminally ill cats who are severely immunodeficient and antibodies are not detectable.
There is no cure for Feline Leukemia or FIV, but if your cat is otherwise
healthy, they can live full, happy lives. Owners should always be attentive to aid early detection and treatment of secondary infections and occurrence of cancer. Signs of active infection include; fever, lethargy, inappetence, weight loss, respiratory, and gastrointestinal tract concerns.
We recommend the Feline Leukemia vaccine to feline patients who have
access to the outdoors and may be exposed to other cats. There is a vaccine for FIV, but it is less than 50% protective and may interfere with future testing, so therefore is not recommended. Even if your cat is the only feline in the house, testing is always recommended so that the owner can be aware of their health status and avoid possible disease spread. A new feline addition should be tested before being introduced to resident feline house members. A Feline Leukemia or FIV positive cat should be kept indoors and have limited exposure to other cats. The best way to prevent your pet from contracting Feline Leukemia and FIV is to keep them indoors!