Feline Leukemia: Prevention is Key!

Feline Leukemia: Prevention is Key!

What You Need to Know

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is an infectious disease in cats that can be passed through saliva, nasal secretions, urine, feces, or milk from nursing.  Many cats do not exhibit any signs of disease in the early stages of infection.  Symptoms of the virus as it progresses vary widely and may include: decreased appetite and weight loss, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, poor grooming/hair coat, dental disease, recurrent infections (upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections), gastrointestinal disease, eye problems, neurologic issues, and reproductive problems.  FeLV is also one of the most common causes of cancer in cats.

Prevention is Key

There is no cure for feline leukemia, so prevention is key!  All kittens or adult cats who go outside and are not up to date on the leukemia vaccines should be tested for FeLV (~15 minute blood test run in the clinic).  Kittens should receive a series of two FeLV vaccinations at 12 and 16 weeks of age.  Adult cats who have not been vaccinated also initially receive a series of two vaccinations 3-4 weeks apart.  The vaccination should be given annually thereafter, especially in cats spend time outside and have a higher risk for exposure.

Prognosis

Cats who test positive for feline leukemia can live relatively normal lives, but should not go outside due to risk of spreading the infection.  Because cats with FeLV have a suppressed immune system, it is important to initiate treatment more quickly and aggressively than we might in a non-infected cat.  Regular veterinary care can significantly increase the lifespan of cats with FeLV!