What is Feline Leukaemia?
Feline Leukaemia (FeLV) is from the same virus group as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and is also similar to HIV in humans. As well as causing tumours, FeLV damages the cat’s immune system, making them susceptible to other infections. It is spread via cat-to-cat contact and is more common in multi-cat households. Kittens can also catch the virus from their mothers, either in the womb or via infected milk.
As FeLV can take months or years to develop, symptoms can take a long time to show and are often hard to spot because of the wide variety of problems that FeLV infection can cause. Cats may appear generally unwell eg lethargic, feverish and off their food. More chronic symptoms include tumours, anaemia, gum inflammation and recurrent abscesses.
What causes FeLV?
FeLV is a long-term disease caused by the retrovirus that affects the health of a cat by killing or damaging its white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off infection.
There is no specific treatment for FeLV infection although secondary infections can be treated with antibiotics and the disease can be managed to help maintain the cat’s quality of life. Cats that have been diagnosed with FeLV should be kept indoors to prevent them fighting with other cats and spreading the infection. The virus cannot survive for long in the environment so cats can live together, though separate bowls should be used, as the virus is present in saliva.
If you think your cat has FeLV, contact your vet immediately.
Vaccination is the only proven method of reducing FeLV infections and is recommended for cats that go outside and cats in contact with others that could potentially be infected.