The Dangers of FELV in Cats


Feline viral enteritis, also known as FeLV, is an incurable, contagious, and potentially fatal virus that affects domestic cats in the United States.

Despite the word viral in its name, feline viral enteritis may not be caused by a virus at all but rather by bacteria or even another parasite called the calicivirus.

Its symptoms are very similar to those of feline leukemia, or FeLV; therefore, it can be difficult to determine which disease your cat has based on physical signs alone.


What is Feline Leukemia Virus?

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is a virus that weakens the immune system, making cats susceptible to infection and illness. Cats with FeLV cannot fight off other diseases and infections as well as healthy cats.

Infected cats may experience a fever, pneumonia, feline leukemia cancer, or skin ulcers. If not treated, infected cats can die from its symptoms.

One of the ways you can tell if your cat has been infected by the Feline Leukemia Virus is if they are less active than usual, have lost weight, and do not want to eat much. A veterinarian will be able to diagnose your cat with an examination and blood test. 

A single-dose vaccine for FeLV is available for many kitten breeds who are at risk for contracting the disease through their mother during birth.

The type of vaccine given varies depending on the breed. Kittens should receive a series of shots starting at 6-8 weeks old until 16 weeks old.

Your vet will let you know when your kitten is due for its next vaccination to ensure protection against the disease. Vaccination does not guarantee protection against this disease, but it reduces the chances of contracting it greatly.

An exam and blood test are necessary to confirm whether or not your cat has been exposed to the virus. Because there is no cure for Feline Leukemia Virus, treatment focuses on keeping your cat comfortable while they go through life-threatening conditions.


Diagnosing and Treating Infected Felines

If your cat is infected with the FeLV virus, then it can transmit the disease to any human and other cats living in the same household. The infection may take up to a year to show symptoms and one of the telltale signs of a cat being infected is weight loss.

A vet can check for and diagnose an infection by conducting a blood test, but there’s no cure. It’s important to keep in mind that kittens are more susceptible than adult cats.

There are some precautions you can take, however: vaccinating your cat against the virus (and others) will help reduce their risk of getting sick; keeping all litter boxes clean will also reduce their risk; and most importantly, do not handle or let your cat come into contact with urine from other animals, as this is how many felines get infected.

I have seen a few people who have lost their pets because they thought they were just overweight when really they had contracted the disease. 

If you notice that your pet has been exhibiting unusual behavior such as excessive drooling or vomiting, go see a veterinarian right away.


How Can I Keep My Cat From Getting Infected?

One way to help prevent your cat from contracting FELV is to make sure they always have a collar on with its name and contact information on it.

Other steps include making sure they are spayed or neutered and keeping them indoors only. The most important thing to do is watch for any changes in behavior.

If your cat starts behaving abnormally, this could be an indication that the infection has progressed and it might be time to get professional help immediately.

A veterinarian will usually prescribe treatment that can last anywhere from 2-6 weeks. In severe cases where treatment doesn’t work, some cats may need to be put down.

It’s also important to remember that FeLV is highly contagious so you should take precautions if you’ve been around any infected cats by washing your hands frequently and not letting other pets come into contact with the infected one.

Cats with these symptoms should be seen by a vet as soon as possible. Some signs of FeLV are lethargy, weight loss, fever, and bruising (often on the head).

Not all cats will show all these symptoms but any combination of them is cause for concern.


General Information on Diseases

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a naturally occurring retrovirus that affects cat populations worldwide. Although the disease doesn’t have an official name, the acronym FELV is often used to refer to it.

Cats may contract the virus by coming into contact with cat feces, or through fights and bites with infected cats. Once infected, it becomes permanent due to felines’ inability to produce antibodies against the disease.

It takes two weeks for symptoms to appear, which include swollen lymph nodes, fever, loss of appetite, eye discharge, weight loss, and lethargy.

A vet will be able to diagnose the condition by taking a blood sample from your cat. Fortunately, there are vaccines available for both feline leukemia and FIV if you’re concerned about your pet’s safety around other animals.

Talk to your veterinarian to learn more about how these diseases can affect your cat.


What About Vaccinations?

Cats that test positive for the FELV virus may not display any symptoms, but can still pass the virus to other cats or humans. The best way to avoid this is by following your veterinarian’s recommendations and keeping your cat inside.

Your vet will be able to recommend appropriate vaccinations if you have an outdoor cat. 

There are no treatments available for the FELV virus, so once a cat has it, it will always have it. That said, many cases of FELV go unnoticed in felines because their immune system is strong enough to fight off the infection before it becomes dangerous.

In these cases, only one blood test would show a positive result indicating that there was indeed an infection at some point which has since been resolved. There is a vaccine available from most vets that can help protect against future infections.

Though it cannot undo the damage done in previous exposures, taking care of infected cats and preventing future exposure through good hygiene practices should limit the number of new cases diagnosed each year.

I hope this post helped answer some questions about the dangers of FeLV in cats! 

If you need more information, check out your local shelter or contact your veterinarian!

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