Feline leukemia is a highly contagious and fatal retroviral disease that attacks the immune system of cats and weakens it, making the animal susceptible to many illnesses and secondary infections. It is commonly known as the friendly cat disease as it spreads from one cat to another via casual, social contacts such as grooming or sharing food and water.
Feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency syndrome are among the most common infectious diseases in cats. All cats are at an equal risk of feline leukemia, but lifestyle and vaccination play a vital role in reducing the exposure to the virus.
The following groups of cats are more susceptible to the disease:
• Cats that spend time in outdoor activities without any supervision.
• Exposure to an infected cat or kitten.
• Living in a multiple cat household.
• Aggressive behavior towards neighboring cats.
• Cats that show symptoms of oral diseases.
• Presence of abscess wounds.
• Cats that are not spayed and neutered regularly.
Symptoms of feline leukemia
Patients of feline leukemia do not always show symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease when it can be best treated. In the advanced stages of the disease, the following symptoms appear:
• Progressive Weight loss
• Loss of appetite
• Watery eyes and runny nose
• Oral infections
• Bad breath
• Pale gums
• Abdominal discomfort
• Persistent fever
• Breathing difficulties
• Inflammation of gums (gingivitis) and inflammation of mouth (stomatitis)
• Infections of the skin, upper respiratory tract, and urinary bladder.
• Enlarged lymph nodes
• Marked Behavioral changes
• Neurological disorders
• Reproductive problems like sterility and inability to conceive
• Inability to conceive and miscarriage
Diagnosis of feline leukemia
Leukemia in cats can be diagnosed by the following tests:
In cats, feline leukemia can be diagnosed by conducting a simple blood test known as the ELISA test. This test identifies FeLV proteins in the blood. The presence of FeLV proteins renders the test positive. ELISA test is very sensitive and can detect the virus in the initial stages of its life cycle when the viral load in the blood is very low.
IFA test detects the progressive phase of the infection and cats with positive IFA test are unable to defeat the virus in general cases. IFA is commonly performed at a standard laboratory rather than at the vet’s clinic. Unfortunately, IFA positive cats have a poor long-term prognosis.
Feline leukemia test kit
With the advancement in technology, scientists have developed feline leukemia test kits that can easily be used in laboratories. A feline leukemia test kit is a simple, affordable and accurate in-clinic test that detects the presence of feline leukemia antigen in the blood. This test can easily be performed in a small time and requires little or no technical equipment or assistance.
Treatment for feline leukemia virus
Eighty-five percent of persistently infected cats die within three years of diagnosis. However, the quality of life can be improved by good care, diet, and exercise. Preventive medicines can help increase the life span of cats.
To date, there is no cure for FeLV disease, secondary infections, and opportunistic diseases, but they can be treated. Cats can be treated with chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy.