Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV/Feline AIDS)
The FIV virus belongs to the same family as HIV but it is species specific and poses no danger to humans. The most common method of transmission is via the saliva and bite wounds but it is not a particularly infectious virus. A large dose is needed to successfully infect another cat, consequently transmission via clothing, feeding bowls etc, is uncommon, but not impossible. Due to its method of transmission the disease is common in the feral cat population. There is no vaccination currently available in the UK. The most effective way of protecting your cat is to get it neutered. This reduces the incidence of fighting and hence the probability of virus transmission. It is not known if blood sucking parasites such as fleas can spread infection so it is wise to maintain a regular flea control programme.
The virus damages the immune system predisposing the animal to repeat infections. Some of the most common signs of infection include weight loss, lethargy, recurrent gingivitis and high temperatures. Many cats infected with FIV will never develop infections associated with the virus and will have a normal life expectancy.
We advise that FIV positive cats are kept inside to reduce the potential for transmission of the virus.
Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)
Cats infected with FeLV can develop lymphoma and leukaemia. However, other major effects of FeLV infection are severe immunosuppression and the development of anaemia and these are a more significant cause of death in infected cats than tumours. Feline leukaemia is a much more severe disease than FIV. There are three main potential outcomes when a cat is infected with FeLV. The cat can eliminate the virus and become immune, it can become persistently infected and develop disease associated with the infection, or it can remain infected but asymptomatic if the cats immune system holds the infection in check. The mean survival time after diagnosis is 2.5 years.
Cats which are persistently infected shed the virus in saliva, urine, faeces and milk. The main method of transmission is via prolonged social contact (mutual grooming, sharing food and water bowls etc). It is much more infectious than FIV, but a very effective vaccination is available which we strongly recommend. Cats infected with FELV should be isolated from other cats to prevent transmission. We have an accurate in-house test which can be performed in minutes.