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Diagnosis and treatment

Avoiding exposure with infected cats and updating vaccinations are the best tools of preventive medicine. FeLV is highly contagious, so it is important to have your cat vaccinated if it could be exposed to other cats. The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends all kittens receive the vaccine.

Infected cats may harbor the illness for several years with no signs of illness. Over time, they may lose weight, become depressed, or develop a fever. Their coats often deteriorate, and they may develop skin, bladder, or upper respiratory infections.

An accredited veterinarian can diagnose the disease by conducting a simple blood test called an ELISA.

Your veterinarian will talk to you about the importance of maintaining a balanced diet. Also, he or she will ask you about your cat’s lifestyle and look for ways to reduce stress, both of which are key to managing your cat’s disease.

Infected cats should be kept indoors so they won’t spread the virus. If you have multiple cats, have all of them tested, vaccinate any that are not infected, and consider housing infected cats separately.

Your veterinarian can determine the best program for your cat. Although some cats are able to eliminate the virus on their own and develop immunity, many others die as a result of cancer or opportunistic infections. Cats infected with the virus live an average of three years.

Adult cat being held

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) causes a highly contagious and potentially fatal retroviral infection that weakens a cat’s immune system, making her susceptible to illness and secondary infection. Feline leukemia is a very common disease. It is often called the “friendly cat” disease as it is commonly spread from cat to cat through casual contact, such as grooming or sharing food or water. Feline leukemia virus and Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are among the most common infectious diseases in cats. FeLV is nothing to meow about! In a study of more than 18,000 cats, 2.3% of them were positive for FeLV.While all cats are at risk, lifestyle, sex, and vaccination status all play an important part in reducing exposure to this contagious disease. The following will increase your cat’s risk of contracting FeLV:

  • Not having been vaccinated against feline leukemia
  • Spending time outside, unsupervised
  • Exposure to a cat or kitten whose infection status is unknown
  • Living in a multiple-cat household
  • Not having been spayed or neutered
  • Aggressive behavior toward other cats
  • Symptoms of oral disease
  • Past or present abscess wounds