Feline leukosis: symptoms, cause, treatment and prevention


Feline leukosis is a very serious viral disease that can be found in cats. This disease is often confused with cat AIDS, also called FIV. Although the two diseases present similarities, they are indeed two distinct diseases, since unlike the AIDS of the cat, leukosis can be prevented by a vaccine, and moreover, it is not an autoimmune disease (a disease which turns the carrier’s immune system against its own cells).

The cause of feline leukosis: how can cats catch it?

First of all, it is important to clarify that feline leukosis is not a zoonosis, which means that it is not a disease that animals can transmit to humans, so there is no no reason to worry for yourself, but rather for your little one.

Feline leukosis is transmissible between cats in many ways. It only takes a simple contact through saliva, tear fluid, urine, the act of reproduction, blood (through a bite, scratch, etc.). This virus therefore mainly concerns cats with access to the outdoors, apartment cats having almost no or very little contact with their congeners.

Transplacental contamination is also possible, which means that a mother carrying the disease can transmit it to her young during her gestation period.

Finally, you should know that if this virus is very resistant once installed in the body of its victim, it is much less outside, or a simple disinfectant is enough to kill it. The risk of your cat catching this disease in a veterinary practice is therefore almost zero.

Symptoms of feline leukosis

A cat can be a healthy carrier of feline leukosis while remaining asymptomatic, which means that it will not show any clinical symptoms. In short, the disease will have no impact on him, but he can instead transmit it to other cats. An individual can be a healthy carrier all of their life, or only a part of it. This is also why feline leukosis is often confused with cat AIDS.

If the disease does occur, it becomes much more of a problem for the cat that suffers from it, since it causes immunodeficiency, which means the cat’s immune system becomes failing, preventing it from fighting off all kinds of infections. or diseases.

The cat will therefore develop regularly, depending on the case, infections such as chronic gingivitis, coryza, stomatitis, but also much more serious problems, such as leukemia, tumors and lymphomas.

Feline leukosis is also often the cause of kidney failure, abortion if it is a pregnant female, anemia (decrease in red blood cells) and leukopenia (decrease in white blood cells).

However, we can spot the onset of feline leukosis before one or more of these diseases or infections are triggered. We may notice a sharp drop in the cat’s energy, a sudden loss of appetite, which will cause your little one to lose weight rapidly, as well as respiratory and digestive disorders and feverish increases.

The treatment of feline leukosis: how to treat it?

As soon as the first symptoms appear, the cat should be taken to the vet. The latter will carry out a blood test under a microscope. Once the diagnosis of feline leukosis has been made, you will have to learn the sad news: unfortunately there is no treatment to date that can cure feline leukosis.

Conversely, there are drugs that in some cases allow remission or in any case offer better living conditions to the cat, by strengthening its immune defenses.

A good quality diet will also help the cat to cope with the disease, but you should avoid all foods that can transmit parasites and / or bacteria, such as raw meat or fish.

For so-called “secondary” diseases that can cause feline leukosis, treatments will be done on a case-by-case basis. Intervention may or may not be necessary if the feline leukosis has allowed cancerous tumors to develop. Appropriate treatments will be prescribed if diseases causing intestinal or respiratory disorders develop.

How to prevent feline leukosis?

There is a very simple way to prevent feline leukosis: vaccination. Indeed, the vaccine against feline leukosis is very effective, since it guarantees 90% protection against the virus, without any side effects. It is therefore highly recommended to have your little companion vaccinated at the age of eight weeks, then give him a booster three to four weeks later. It will then be necessary, as with all vaccines, to remember to make him do his booster once a year.

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