FeLV, FIV, and FIP in cats
Two weeks after adopting my kitten Cleo in January 2014, we took on the battle of Parvo head on & beat it! Cleo was in the 1% of survivors. Along the way she caught a secondary infection and the veterinarian mentioned testing her for FeLV, FIV, and FIP. But then she seemed fine after given antibiotics. She was given the all clear & the veterinarian gave her the 2nd combined FVRCP vaccine shot which protects against Feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia. Cleo spiked more fevers for almost a week! Now in hind sight I wish she hadn’t gotten that booster vaccination. Why vaccinate against something she just spent 3 weeks fighting?
2 weeks later Cleo was scheduled to received her Leukemia vaccination & Rabies. Given our rough start I wasn’t about to just keep giving her vaccines. I decided before she gets any more vaccines she was getting tested for FeLV, FIV, and FIP. Although she had supposed be tested at the animal shelter she was adopted from, I was paranoid & with good reason!
Cat are susceptible to the 3 F’s FeLV, FIV, and FIP. These are contagious diseases common in indoor felines but are sometimes transmitted to indoor cats.
FIV & Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) are retrovirus’s. All retroviruses, including feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), produce an enzyme, reverse transcriptase, which permits them to insert copies of their own genetic material into that of the cells they have infected. Although related, FeLV and FIV differ in many ways, including their shape: FeLV is more circular while FIV is elongated. The two viruses are also quite different genetically, and their protein consituents are dissimlar in size and composition.
FeLV – Feline Leukemia Virus – Cats persistently infected with FeLV serve as sources of infection. Virus is shed in very high quantities in saliva and nasal secretions, but also in urine, feces, and milk from infected cats. Cat-to-cat transfer of virus may occur from a bite wound, during mutual grooming, and (though rarely) through the shared use of litter boxes and feeding dishes. Transmission can also take place from an infected mother cat to her kittens, either before they are born or while they are nursing. FeLV doesn’t survive long outside a cat’s body—probably less than a few hours under normal household conditions. FeLV weakens an animal’s immune system and predisposes cats to a variety of infections and diseases, including anemia, kidney disease and lymphosarcoma, a highly malignant and fatal cancer of the lymph system. Sadly there is no cure for FeLV, and it is estimated that less than 20 percent of clinically infected cats survive more than three years of active infection. There is a vaccine available for cats who are at risk of contracting FeLV. Like all vaccines, there are risks involved in vaccination, and the vaccine is not a 100-percent guarantee against infection. Your veterinarian can best evaluate whether this vaccine is right for your cat.
FIV – Feline immunodeficiency virus – FIV can attack the immune system of cats, much like the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can attack the immune system of human beings. Cats who are infected with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) may not show symptoms until years after the initial infection occurred. FIV is mainly passed from cat to cat through deep bite wounds, the kind that usually occur outdoors during aggressive fights and territorial disputes—the perfect reason to keep your cat inside. A less common mode of transmission is from an FIV-infected mother cat to her kitten. FIV does not seem to be commonly spread through sharing food bowls and litter boxes, social grooming, sneezing and other casual modes of contact. Unfortunately, there is no specific antiviral treatment for FIV. Cats can carry the virus for a long time before symptoms appear. Therefore, treatment focuses mainly on extending the asymptomatic period or, if symptoms have set in, on easing the secondary effects of the virus.
FIP – Feline infectious peritonitis – is a fatal, incurable disease that affects cats. It is a viral disease of cats caused by certain strains of a virus called the feline coronavirus. Once a cat develops clinical FIP involving one or many systems of the cat’s body, the disease is progressive and is almost always fatal. The way clinical FIP develops as an immune-mediated disease is unique, unlike any other viral disease of animals or humans.FIP is not a highly contagious disease, since by the time the cat develops clinical disease only a small amount of virus is being shed. Feline coronavirus can be found in large quantities in the saliva and feces of cats during the acute infection, and to a lesser extent in recovered or carrier cats, so it can be transmitted through cat-to-cat contact and exposure to feces. FIP is relatively uncommon in the general cat population. There are two major forms of FIP, an effusive, or “wet” form, and a noneffusive, or “dry” form. Generally, cats will exhibit the signs of the noneffusive form FIP more slowly than the effusive form. Symptoms generally include chronic weight loss, depression, anemia, and a persistent fever that does not respond to antibiotic therapy. The effusive form of FIP is characterized by an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, or less commonly in the chest. Early in the disease, the cat may exhibit similar symptoms to the dry form, including weight loss, fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. The wet form of the disease often progresses rapidly, and the cat may quickly appear pot-bellied due to fluid accumulation in the abdomen. When the fluid accumulation becomes excessive, it may become difficult for the cat to breathe normally. One of the most difficult aspects of FIP is that there is no simple diagnostic test. The ELISA, IFA, and virus-neutralization tests detect the presence of coronavirus antibodies in a cat, but these tests cannot differentiate between the various strains of feline coronavirus. A positive result means only that the cat has had a prior exposure to coronavirus, but not necessarily one that causes FIP. Unfortunately, there is no known cure or effective treatment for FIP at this time. There is only one licensed FIP vaccine available; however, this vaccine has minimal if any effectiveness in preventing FIP, and it is not generally recommended by the American Association of Feline Practitioners Feline Vaccine Advisory Panel. Primucell FIP, produced by Pfizer Animal Health, is a temperature-sensitive, modified-live virus vaccine that is given as an intranasal vaccine, and is licensed for use in cats at least 16 weeks of age. The vaccine appears to be safe, but the risks and benefits of vaccination should be weighed carefully. Cat owners should consult their veterinarian to help them decide if their cat should be vaccinated.
This information was obtained by the following websites: