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Feline Leukemia (FeLV)

Feline leukemia is a viral disease that weakens the immune system, increases susceptibility to other diseases, causes blood disorders and is the most common cause of cancer in cats. FeLV is the leading cause of deaths in domestic cats, affecting all breeds.

Cats may have no signs during early stages, and then over weeks, months or even years, health may progressively deteriorate. Or, an FeLV-positive cat may have recurrent illness interspersed with periods of relative health. Symptoms include:

  • Anemia
  • Lethargy
  • Progressive weight loss
  • Abcesses
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Unusual breathing patterns
  • Pale gums or a yellow color around the mouth and whites of the eyes

The virus occurs in saliva, nasal secretions, urine, feces, and milk from infected cats. It is spread from cat to cat putting outdoor only and indoor/outdoor cats at greater risk for infection. Methods infection include:

  • bite wounds
  • from an infected mother to her kittens
  • mutual grooming
  • through shared litter boxes and feeding dishes (Although rare)

It’s best to take preventive measures against this typically fatal disease, because there is no cure for FeLV. Preventative measures include:

  • A vaccine is recommended for all cats at risk of exposure, but the only sure way to prevent transmission is to prevent exposure to infected cats.
  • Keep your cats indoors, away from potentially infected cats who might bite them.
  • If you do allow your cat outdoors, provide supervision or place them in a secure enclosure.

The good news is that the virus will not survive outside a cat for more than a few hours in most environments.

Most cats get tested for feline leukemia before they are adopted or at their first kitten visit. If you are concerned that your cat may not have ever been tested, or that your cat needs their FeLV vaccine updated; please call us today to make an appointment.