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Feline Leukemia Virus: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, And Prevention

It's likely that you've heard of FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus), but there's another lesser known retroviral disease that infects cats called FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus). If you have a cat, it's important that you know about this disease, how it spreads, its symptoms, and how it can best be prevented.

What Is the Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)?

While the name is misleading, Feline Leukemia Virus isn't actually leukemia, a cancer that infects the blood cells. Instead, it's a virus that infects cats and, if not defeated by the immune system, can cause widespread disease within your furry friend, including leukemia.

Due to the nature of this disease, it's fairly easy for your cat to be infected without your knowing. When infected with the disease, there are three possible scenarios. One, your cat's immune system could successfully fight off the disease and shed the infection which will make them infection free and immune. Second, your cat can become infected, remain completely symptom free, but still spread the virus to other felines. Third, your cat can become infected and become ill due to the immune system's inability to fight off the virus.

What Are the Symptoms?

Unlike other viral illnesses that can affect cats, not all cats will show the same symptoms when infected with the Feline Leukemia Virus.

Some cats will remain symptom free for their entire lives, some will show symptoms a few years after infection, and others may begin to show symptoms right away. Symptoms vary, but the most common ones include fever and lethargy. Some cats with FeLV may have frequent respiratory infections while others may show signs of anemia or liver disease. If your cat begins to exhibit fever and lethargy, or they otherwise seem out of character, it's important to bring them into the veterinarian so that FeLV can be diagnosed or ruled out.

How Is FeLV Treated and Prevented?

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for Feline Leukemia Virus, but the spread of the virus among cats can be prevented.

If you'd like to introduce a new cat into your home, it's important that they be tested for FeLV prior to moving into your home. Knowing their status can help you to properly prepare for their arrival and ensure the health of your other cats. Cats that are at highest risk are kittens and the elderly, as well as those cats who frequent the outdoors or where there is more than one cat in the home. There is a vaccination for FeLV, which all healthy kittens should receive as part of their vaccination lineup. While there is no treatment for FeLV itself, the secondary infections that occur as a result of the virus can be treated and this treatment may prolong your cat's life.

As your cat's owner, it's your job to properly educate yourself and provide them with the best prevention and care possible. To learn more about FeLV, its vaccination, and how to prevent its spread, consult with your cat's veterinarian immediately. Go to website for more information.