Feline Aids - Is Your Cat At Risk?
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
It is estimated that between 14% and 29% of cats in Australia test positive for FIV. Outdoor cats are at the highest risk of disease, especially if they fight with other cats. If your feline friend spends time frolicking outdoors or has been exposed to cat fights, then talking to your local Greencross Vets team about incorporating a vaccination into your pet’s preventative health care program is important.
What is FIV?
FIV stands for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. You may recognize a similar disease process in humans, called HIV. There are many similarities between the two viruses, however, it is important to realize a human cannot be infected by a cat with FIV!
FIV suppresses the immune system of the cat, which means it cannot fully protect itself against common bacterial and viral infections. This is not great considering the things our kitties like to get up to!
Cats are very good at hiding illness, most commonly FIV cats present with being ‘off colour', weight loss, weakness, mouth sores or reoccurring infections.
How do we know if a cat has FIV?
Your vet can diagnose FIV after a thorough examination and a small blood test which detects antibodies to the virus. Often the test is run on a blood panel at a reference laboratory, or it can also be carried out in your vet’s clinic, with the results ready in a matter of minutes.
Early detection of FIV is very important, not only to ensure the kitty's extra needs are met but also to prevent spreading the infection to other cats.
How is FIV spread?
There are a couple of ways cats can become infected with this disease. The most common is by fighting with an infected cat or, less commonly, during mating. This is why un-neutered male cats are overrepresented in FIV cases. The virus is transmitted in the saliva and blood of the infected cat.
Signs and Symptoms of FIV
Cats infected with FIV may remain healthy for a number of years. While some infected cats show no sign of disease, others may display initial symptoms.
Initial symptoms can include;
- Loss of appetite
- swollen lymph nodes.
Eventually, the immune system becomes too weak to fight off other infections or diseases. As a result, the cat will die from one of these subsequent diseases.
Progressive symptoms can include;
- weight loss
- eye lesions
- poor coat health
- sores in and around the mouth
- chronic infections
- recurrent infections
- and even cancer.
What happens if my cat is FIV+?
Cats that test positive for FIV need to be seen by the vet twice yearly to ensure that their special requirements are met and nutrition and parasite prevention is taken care of. Also, it is responsible to keep your infected cat indoors in order to decrease the spread of FIV.
How to prevent FIV
Since the major route of infection is via cat bites, keeping cats indoors and away from potentially infected cats, is the best way to reduce their exposure. Cats are less likely to want to be outside also if they are neutered.
FIV is a preventable disease, there is a vaccination available that can be incorporated into your feline friend’s preventative health program. Since the testing for FIV cannot distinguish between a vaccinated cat and an infected cat, it is important to find out if your cat is FIV free prior to vaccination.