Feline Leukemia Virus

Deadly and Incurable

The Feline Leukemia Virus, also known as FeLV, is one of the most widespread diseases affecting cats today. It is said to be responsible for the most deaths in domestic cats, as well as many cats in the wild. FeLV is a virus, not a cancer; it affects the immune system and can cause anemia.

There are three main types of the feline leukemia virus:

FeLV-A -This is in all FeLV infected cats. It affects the immune system, slowly weakening it, causing other parts of body to deteriorate.

FeLV-B -About 50% of FeLV infected cats have this type. It causes more Neoplastic diseases like tumors and other abnormal tissue growth.

FeLV-C -Only 1% of cats infected have this type of feline leukemia. This type is known to bring on severe anemia.

After a cat becomes infected with this disease it then spreads through the tonsils, traveling to the pharyngeal lymph nodes, and through the bloodstream to other parts like lymph nodes, bone marrow and intestinal tissue.

After about two to four weeks, infection forming viremia (a virus) shows up in the blood.

The Feline leukemia virus is affecting cats worldwide; in the United States it affects 2 to 3% of cats.

Feline leukemia is spread through physical contact with other infected cats. It can occur through saliva, urine, feces and tears. Another way of spreading this infection is by passing it through a mother to her kittens during gestation or nursing.

Various ways the virus is transmitted:

  • Bite Wounds
  • Blood Transfusions
  • Mouth and Nose Contact
  • Mutual Grooming
  • Nose to Nose Contact
  • Shared Food Dishes and Water Bowls
  • Shared Litter Trays
  • Sneezing

What are the Risk Factors of Feline Leukemia?

There are some things that can increase a cat's chance of contracting this disease.

  • A sick cat is 4 times more likely to become infected.
  • Male cats are at higher risk; they are 1.7 times more likely to contract it than females.
  • Younger cats are more vulnerable to this disease than older cats.
  • In households with more than one cat there is a higher risk of developing feline leukemia, especially if one of your cats frequently goes outdoors.
  • Outdoor cats are naturally at greater risk. The chances of a healthy indoor cat becoming infected are less than 1%; a healthy outdoor cat 1 to 2%; and a sick stray cat are more than 13%.

The average age of cats infected is 3, with most cats being between ages of 1 to 6 years.

If you suspect your cat has feline leukemia you should bear in mind that there ARE treatment options available.

There are also tests that you can have performed to determine if your cat does indeed have FeLV. It is also wise to know all the symptoms of feline leukemia


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