Feline Leukemia Virus: What You Need to Know

image of a cat getting a vaccine.

Feline leukemia (FeLV) is a virus that weakens your cat's immune system. Unfortunately, when the immune system does not function properly, your cat may be more likely to develop other diseases, such as cancer and blood disorders.

How Cats Contract Feline Leukemia

Cats get feline leukemia from other cats. The virus is spread in saliva, urine, feces, nasal secretions and milk from nursing mothers. When an infected cat bites or grooms another cat, that cat may develop the virus. If a pregnant cat has feline leukemia, the kittens might be born with the disease or may develop it after nursing. Because kittens have weaker immune systems than older cats, they are more likely to suffer from the virus. Cats can also spread the virus by sharing food dishes or litter boxes; although this does not happen very often.

Symptoms of Feline Leukemia

There may be no symptoms of the disease during the earlier stages. In the later stages, symptoms may be similar to those that are also typical of other types of viruses. Depending on the stage of the disease, a cat infected with feline leukemia may experience:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Gradual weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Eye disorders
  • Pale gums or inflammation of the gums
  • Poor coat
  • Anemia
  • Skin, bladder or upper respiratory tract infections
  • Seizures
  • Behavioral changes
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Diagnosis and Treatment

Feline leukemia is diagnosed via a blood test that detects a protein found in the virus. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease. Many infected cats die within two to three years of being diagnosed. Although there is no treatment for feline leukemia, symptoms can be treated to keep your cat more comfortable. If weight loss is a problem, nutritional supplements will help your cat receive necessary nutrients. Your cat may get sick more often because of his weakened immune system, but these infections can often be treated with antibiotics.

Prevention

The FeLV vaccine will help prevent your cat from developing feline leukemia, but it does not offer an absolute guarantee that your cat will never get the virus. The best way to protect your furry friend is to keep him or her indoors. When cats roam, they are more likely to come in contact with infected cats that may transmit the virus through a bite.

Before you bring a new pet into your home, make sure that it has been tested for the feline leukemia virus. If one of your cats does develop the virus, separate it from your other cats to prevent the spread of the disease.

Has your cat had an examination and feline leukemia shot recently? If not, give us a call to schedule an appointment.

Call to schedule your pet's wellness or urgent care exam now: (952) 758-6722

Testimonials

  • We have been clients of New Prague Animal Care for over 13 years. They have provided exceptional and compassionate care for our “pack” (6 dogs and 3 cats). As a professional dog trainer, breeder of Best in Show and Master Hunter Retrievers as well an owner of multiple kennel/ doggy daycare facilities (30+ years), I have worked with numerous veterinary clinics both in the Twin Cities and nationwide. Dr. Steve and his crew rate among the finest I have worked with. The clinic has all of the fea

    ...
    Read More - Kathryn N
  • My dad has taken all of his dogs there for years, and I take mine there as well. Dr. Lavalle's bedside manner is amazing, and his staff are so genuine and caring. I always have, and will continue referring people to take their pets here. They are hands down the best veterinary care in the area!

    - Amber C
  • Have taken our dogs to Dr. Lavallee for over 10 years and he is great with each of them. He and his staff are very caring and helpful.

    - Barb S
  • Middle of a snow storm a few days ago. My little puppy was injured. I live in Faribult. Vet offices were closed in town. They actually called me while in route to see if I was ok. They were so good with the puppy. The cost was very reasonable. Called today to see how everything was going. I really was very impressed with this office. I recommend this place.

    ...
    Read More - Wendy E
  • Awesome experience! My pets love the care they get from Dr. Lavallee and his staff! They are not just a number; they care for them like my babies are family! Would highly recommend them!

    - SGGM
  • Found a 6-wk old kitten on the side of the highway and brought it in at 7pm on emergency basis. I was blown away by the compassion of Dr. Johnson's team. What a great experience. True animal people!

    - Anna H
  • Moved to New Prague and found this place for our dog.. Such great service, friendly staff, amazing Dr. and very accommodating to all of our needs!! Highly recommended by my pet family!!!

    - Kerri N
  • We love New Prague Animal Care, they are always so kind and caring, from the phone calls to when you walk in. We take our Siberian Husky Bandit in and he gets so much attention, well loved. We've had to take him in twice for emergencies, the in house testing was great, Dr. Johnson was able to resolve the issue almost immediately. I wouldn't take him anywhere else.

    ...
    Read More - Myra C

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