Feline Leukemia

Feline leukemia virus has claimed more cat deaths than any other organism in the world.

WHAT CAUSES FELINE LEUKEMIA?

A virus that looks like this:

 

This virus, the Feline AIDS virus, and the human HIV virus all belong to the family of viruses called Retroviruses.

SYMPTOMS

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Through close contact with infected cats.

An infected cat with or without symptoms, sheds the virus in its saliva.

Your cat may had also encountered the virus from an infected cat’s blood, urine, poop, mucus from nose, and milk.

If you have a strictly indoor cat household, it is likely for your other cats to have the disease because sharing food and water dishes, sharing litter box, grooming one and biting one another are ways in which the virus is transmitted.

If the pregnant mother cat is sick, the kittens get the virus through the milk.

Sexual contact is a way to pass the virus.

A needle prick or contaminated blood transfusion with the virus can also infect your cat.

Your vet will recommend a rapid antibody test kit for FeLV. It is usually paired with FIV (cat AIDS).

After collecting blood from your cat (hopefully without any struggle), your vet will use the sample for the test kit. Similar to a human pregnancy test kit, two lines mean positive and one line is negative. Results come out in less than half an hour.

It depends on the phase and type of the disease. Your vet will require additional tests such as complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis to get a baseline and assess your pet’s overall health.

TYPES OF THE DISEASE

The bone marrow (or the chunk of flesh inside the shaft of bone in the bulalo soup) form of leukemia, and the lymphoma (FeLV cancer) form.

Ironically, the cancer form has a better response to therapy than the bone marrow type.

PHASES OF THE DISEASE

If your vet tells you that your cat is at the later phase of the disease, hospitalization may be recommended, along with some maintenance medications at discharge. But if your cat is presumed to be at the early phase, you just need to keep your cat indoors for most of its life.

Your cat should be kept there to minimize its exposure to other infectious diseases in your area. If your cat lives outdoors most of its time, it will be mad at you. If it goes in to a tantrum, let the behaviour die a natural death. Simply ignore the behaviour.

If the cat escapes a lot, leave it in a closed but well ventilated room when you have visitors.

YOUR OTHER CATS

Your other household cats should also be tested.

For those pets who are in close contact with the infected one, they should be tested for FeLV. If negative they should receive the cat 4-in-1 vaccine. Currently, there is no available FeLV vaccine in Manila.

If their other vaccinations are still up-to-date (less than one year from last injection), no need to advance the shots.

Unfortunately, for the bone marrow form of leukemia, supportive care, steroids, and transfusions are your only options.

For the lymphoma form, treatment includes chemotherapy, steroids, supportive supplements, and interferon (which you need to purchase abroad).

You must focus on supportive care like feeding good food, giving good vitamins, giving immune boosters, regularly using a parasite prevention product, and visiting your vet twice a year for monitoring.

Never give raw food, raw eggs and unpasteurized milk to minimize illness. Raw food diet is dangerous to you as well. A raw chicken has Salmonella. Your cat may get sick from it and pass it on to you by kissing you. You could end up in the hospital.

There is a small percent of leukemia positive cats who may stay healthy for several years.

If your cat is hospitalized repeatedly due to complications brought by the virus, its health is probably headed downhill.

Extremely low. If you have a multi-cat household with all of them being FeLV+, they may last for three years from the time of diagnosis.

No, even though the virus dies in minutes when it is outside the host. It is better if you focus on your remaining cats first before getting a new one. Continue reading until you understand the closed colony concept.

Yes but only by using a prescription from a licensed veterinary professional.

You still need to bring your pet to the vet to know what is wrong, and what options he or she can give you depending on your circumstances.

Buying medicines that you saw other people use on the internet is not only irresponsible, it may also endanger the life of your pet.

Indiscriminate antibiotic use may help produce a multiple drug resistant bacteria in your dog that, when transferred to you, could end you up at a bed in the hospital.

No, the virus stays inside your cat’s body forever. This means that it is infected as long as it is alive. It may, however, acquire other opportunistic infections like fungal, bacterial or parasitic infections. So keep it in a clean house!

No. Neither your children nor your little cousins. But other cats may acquire the disease if they come in contact with your infected cat or its contaminated stuff or secretions.

If you are rescuing or adopting an adult cat, visit the vet first and request the following:

  • FIV/FeLV test
  • panleukopenia test, and
  • fecalysis

This is a great way to screen out a new cat before it is introduced to your household. If the cat is negative, it is still recommended to isolate the new cat away from the household cats for 14 days to prevent transmission of harmful germs and parasites.

If you already have a cat, it should be castrated (for males) or spayed (for females) before its first year to prevent roaming and sexually-triggered behaviours.

Since the vaccine is still not available in Manila, limiting your cat’s contact with non-household cats is beneficial but may be hard to do if it was raised to be an outdoor cat. This is called a closed colony. No new cats shall be brought into the house to prevent the infection’s spread to new pets.

Note

Look for an emergency service provider in advance by calling your nearby vets. It helps to know who is open at the middle of the night. Be sure you meet with the doctors and staff to make sure that this place is where you would want to take your pet if you had to. You may opt to transfer your pet to your primary care veterinarian the next day if you wish.

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