Vet Patrick von Heimendahl explores essential facts about cat leukaemia

March 7, 2024

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As responsible cat owners, it’s useful to stay informed about conditions that could adversely affect our cat’s health. One such concern is Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV), a serious and contagious disease that can affect cats of all ages. In this article, we explore essential facts about cat leukaemia, common symptoms, and the importance of prevention through vaccination.

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Facts about Feline Leukaemia:

What is Feline Leukaemia?

  • Viral Infection: Feline Leukaemia Virus is a retrovirus that can affect cats worldwide. It primarily spreads through close contact with an infected cat, such as mutual grooming, shared food and water bowls, or bite wounds.
  • Highly Contagious: FeLV is highly contagious among cats, making it crucial for owners of multiple cats or those whose cats interact outdoors with other cats to be especially vigilant.
  • Various Strains: FeLV comes in different strains, each affecting cats differently. Some cats may effectively fight off the infection and become immune, while others may succumb to the disease.

Common symptoms of Cat Leukaemia:

  • Lethargy: Cats infected with FeLV often exhibit increased fatigue and a lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed.
  • Weight Loss: Unexplained weight loss can be a sign of various health issues, including FeLV. Patrick advises to monitor your cat’s weight and contact us if you notice significant changes.
  • Recurrent & Secondary Infections: FeLV suppresses the cat’s immune system. Cats with FeLV may experience frequent respiratory or gastrointestinal infections. They are also more susceptible to secondary infections and diseases such as leukaemia (cancer of the white blood cells), lymphoma, and anaemia.
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes: Enlarged lymph nodes are a common symptom of FeLV. If you notice any unusual lumps or bumps on your cat, Patrick stresses that you should contact us as soon as possible.
  • Pale Gums and Mucous Membranes: FeLV can cause anaemia, leading to pale gums and mucous membranes.

Prognosis, treatment & management:

Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) is potentially life-threatening. However, the prognosis for a cat diagnosed with feline leukaemia can vary depending on several factors, including the cat’s overall health, age, immune system status, and any concurrent medical conditions.

Cats can be classified into three main categories based on their FeLV infection status:

  • FeLV Negative (no infection): Cats testing negative for FeLV typically have a good prognosis, as they are not infected with the virus.
  • FeLV Positive (persistent infection): Cats testing positive for FeLV are infected with the virus. The prognosis for FeLV-positive cats varies depending on the stage of infection and the presence of associated health problems.
  • FeLV Exposure (transient infection): Some cats may initially test positive for FeLV due to exposure to the virus but may clear the infection over time. These cats may have a better prognosis compared to persistently infected cats.

While there is no cure for FeLV, supportive care and management can help improve the quality of life and extend survival in affected cats. This may include addressing secondary infections with antibiotics, managing symptoms such as anaemia or dehydration, providing a balanced diet, and minimising stressors. Regular veterinary check-ups are essential for monitoring health and adjusting treatment as required.

Preventing Cat Leukaemia:

  • Vaccination: Vaccination is by far the most effective way to prevent Feline Leukaemia Virus. Our practice offers safe and reliable vaccines that can significantly reduce the risk of infection. Book a cat vaccination appointment to ensure your feline friend is protected.
  • Testing and Isolation: If you’re introducing a new cat to your household or have concerns about an outdoor cat’s health, it’s essential to conduct Feline Leukaemia testing and isolate any infected cats to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Indoor Living: Keeping an infected cat indoors is essential to prevent further spread of the virus. With enough attention to enrichment an infected cat can have a very happy life indoors.
  • Regular Veterinary Check-ups: Routine examinations allow our vets to monitor your cat’s health and detect any potential issues early on so be sure to schedule regular check-ups.

Book a Cat Vaccination appointment:

Vaccinations play a crucial role in preventing and managing infectious diseases. To ensure your cat’s protection against Feline Leukaemia Virus, we strongly recommend booking a cat vaccination appointment. If you have any questions about FeLV or other aspects of your cat’s health, please feel free to contact us for advice.

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