All Pets Veterinary Clinic
Feline immunodeficiency virus, or FIV for short, is an incurable disease that can
affect cats. The virus that causes this disease is a retrovirus. It is estimated
that 1-12% or more of the cat population carries FIV. This article will explore the
spread, signs, diagnosis, and prevention of this disease.
Spread. The virus is spread from one cat to another mainly by saliva. Biting
is the major way that cats become infected with FIV.
Signs. The virus essentially acts like the AIDS virus in people (but cannot
infect people), causing the immune system to be unable to protect the cat from common
infections that a normal cat could fight off. Thus, signs can vary greatly from none,
at early stages of infection, to virtually anything, in later stages of infection. Some
of the more common signs seen in cats with FIV include: fever, anorexia, diarrhea, weight
loss, anemia, chronic secondary bacterial infections, mouth infections, chronic
respiratory infections, neurological problems, and kidney problems.
Diagnosis. Currently there are rapid diagnosis tests available on the market.
By obtaining a small blood sample, the status of any cat can be determined within as
little as 10 minutes.
Treatment. There is not a cure for FIV. All cats with FIV will eventually die
from this disease. Any treatment, such as fluid therapy, antibiotics, blood
transfusions, etc. will only help to delay the death of the cat.
Prevention. As with many diseases, prevention is the best option. A new
vaccine has just been released for FIV. Three boosters are needed initially followed
by annual revaccination. Other measures that can be taken to prevent your cat from
becoming infected with FIV include the following: 1) Keep your cat indoors. Since
stray cats are the most likely place for your cat to become exposed to FIV, keeping
your cat inside will prevent infection. 2) If you are going to adopt a stray cat, keep
it isolated from your other cats until the cat has been tested, and found negative, for
FIV. 3) If cats must go outside, have them spayed or neutered. Intact male and female
cats are the ones that are most likely to come into contact with stray cats. However,
one must remember that spaying and neutering alone will not protect your cat.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not
intended to take the place of your regular veterinarian. Please do not hesitate
to contact your regular veterinarian if you have questions regarding your pet.
Karen Blakeley, DVM, MPH
14 December 2002