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FeLV or feline leukemia is a retrovirus that produces an
enzyme, reverse transcriptase, which copies its own DNA into
infected cells. In this way it is similar to FIV and human
HIV. FeLV has been demonstrated in the cat population
throughout the world. In the United States two to three
percent of the cat population is infected with FeLV.
FeLV is more easily contracted by young
kittens, old cats,
or cats that already have a compromised immune system. Cats
that are infected with FeLV will shed the virus in extremely
high quantities. It is transferred through saliva, urine,
feces and mother's milk. It also transfers from the mother
cat to kittens. The virus can't sustain itself on its own
and will quickly die within a few hours outside of the cat's
Cats that are highly susceptible to getting FeLV, aside from
those listed above, are cats that live with infected cats,
kittens born of an infected mother and outdoor cats. FeLV is
a common cause of cancer in cats; it also causes blood
disorders and lowers immune system response.
Cats may show no response when they are initially infected
with FeLV. Symptoms will start occurring over a period of
time from weeks to years depending upon how quickly the
disease progresses. This disease also has remissions in
which the cat can seem perfectly healthy and then all of a
sudden very sick.
Here are some common symptoms that have been observed in
cats with FeLV:
- A variety of eye conditions
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Abortion of kittens or other reproductive failures
- Infections of the skin, urinary bladder, and upper
- Inflammation of the gums and mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Pale gums and other mucus membranes
- Persistent diarrhea
- Persistent fever
- Poor coat condition
- Seizures, behavior changes, and other neurological disorders
- Slow but progressive weight loss, followed by severe
wasting late in the disease process
There are two stages to FeLV: Primary viremia and Secondary
viremia. Primary viremia is comparable to HIV in humans
where the immune system can still mount a defense to slow
the progression of the disease. Secondary viremia is
comparable to AIDS in humans where the cat is easily
infected by anything and the FeLV has infected the bone
marrow and other tissues. There is usually no return from
FeLV is diagnosed through the ELISA or enzyme-linked
immunosorbent assay test and IFA or indirect
immunofluorescent antibody assay test. You can prevent your
cat from getting infected by making sure that your cat has
been vaccinated and then preventing your cat from ever going
outside or coming into contact with infected cats.
FeLV is incurable and eventually your cat will die from this
disease. Until then you need to feed your cat a proper diet,
closely monitor your cat's health, have regular checkups
with your veterinarian and do not allow your cat outside of
your home or to come into contact with other cats. You
should also spay or neuter your cat.
Leukemia in Cats
By: Dr. Jane Bicks
Some cats are carriers, others are victims, but all are potential targets for
this cancerous virus.
Highly contagious, this feline viral blood cancer is spread through the saliva
(possibly also the urine and feces) of infected cats. Once the disease is
contracted, a cat generally does not survive for more than a few years,
despite medical treatment.
The symptoms include: jaundice, anemia, weight loss, appetite loss, diarrhea
or constipation, enlarged lymph nodes, fatigue, excessive thirst and/or
urination, respiratory distress, infertility, and probably a deteriorating
immune system that prevents victims from warding off other diseases.
As yet, there is no cure, but vaccines are available. Ask your veterinarian
about testing for FeLV and vaccine options.
Feeding for Fortification
A healthy adult cat, exposed to the virus, can develop immunity to the
primary disease (in effect, suppress it) and live out a normal life.
But should this carrier's natural defenses be nutritionally let down,
particularly during a period of stress, the disease could then surface and
Vary feeding of professional/alternative canned and dry foods that
contain high-BV protein in a good ratio to quality fat, with an
impressive vitamin- mineral analysis, add No artificial coloring or
sodium nitrite, and no more than one preservative.
Provide 1/4 teaspoon of bee pollen.
250 - 500 mb of vitamin C daily.
Provide an antioxidant formula daily.
Provide balanced Omega 3/6 fatty-acid supplement with zinc daily.
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