FIV is a deadly virus that affects cats similarly to how HIV affects humans. But cats can be vaccinated for FIV! It’s quick and easy to prevent, yet in the U.S., cat owners give substantially less veterinary care to their kitties than dogs get, statistically, including basic wellness and preventative visits. This also means that cats that have gotten FIV may go undiagnosed and therefore spread the virus to many other cats. Isn’t it best to prevent it?
What is FIV?
FIV, or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, affects cats by gradually weakening their immune systems. It is the same class of virus as HIV, but only cats can get it. Symptoms are not always detectable soon after the virus has been transmitted. They can actually even go unnoticed for a few years, but all during that time, the affected cat can be spreading the virus to others.
How is FIV transmitted?
FIV is primarily transmitted through bite wounds. Mothers with the virus could also pass it to their kittens, though this is somewhat rare. FIV is not spread through sexual contact.
The fact that this is a virus that is spread mainly through cats fighting with each other is yet another reason that some people overlook vaccines as a preventative. Many think their cats won’t get into fights with other cats. The reality is that many cats do fight. Some fights are territorial. Many are due to the large number of outdoor cats that are not spayed or neutered. When a female is in heat, every intact male in the vicinity will pursue her and most are willing to fight over her. Cats that are spayed or neutered can get caught up in the kitty drama, too. All it takes is one bite.
What are the symptoms of FIV?
Initially, the lymph nodes are affected by the virus. They enlarge, and sometimes the cat will also have a fever. This stage is often undetected unless the lymph nodes become extremely large. As the illness progresses, the immune system weakens. An affected cat may begin to have a series of illnesses due to this. Over time, fever, poor coat condition, loss of appetite, weight loss, and lethargy may develop. Inflammation of the mouth and gums, recurring infections of skin, bladder, etc. and diarrhea are likely to occur. In advanced cases, some cats will experience neurological complications, too.
Is there a test for FIV?
Cats can be tested and diagnosed for the virus by any of several different testing methods. Each method requires a blood sample to test for antibodies, which would indicate the presence of the virus in the body. It is possible, though rare, for false positives to occur, so the diagnosis should be confirmed with a second test utilizing a different method than the first test.
Is there treatment?
There is no treatment for FIV – just management to extend life. Good management and veterinary care can result in a cat still having a number of great years, but once the immune system has weakened, time becomes limited.
Since there is no cure, any cat that has been diagnosed with FIV should be kept indoors and should be spayed/neutered to prevent the spread of the virus to other cats. (Not to mention the other medical benefits of spaying and neutering!)
FIV Vaccine for Cats
Vaccinate your fur babies! This is such a simple preventative that can save the life of your pet and the lives of others, too! Call us to schedule your appointment.
Learn more about FIV from Cornell University here.