The Granby Animal Clinic, Inc.
FELINE IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS
The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), sometimes called the Feline AIDS Virus, is an important feline disease. It is likened to the AIDS virus which affects humans because of the similarities in the two diseases. However, FIV only affects cats.
FIV is transmitted primarily through bite wounds that occur in cat fights, consequently it is most common in intact male cats. Other interactions of cats, such as sharing common food and water bowls or grooming each other are an uncommon source of transmission.
Initial exposure to the virus usually results in mild illness which may include fever, depression, gastrointestinal or respiratory disease. This stage of the disease can last days to weeks. Following the initial phase, the cat is usually asymptomatic for several years. Eventually the infected cat will become sick. FIV infected cats can develop opportunistic infections, cancer, neurologic dysfunction, or a general wasting syndrome. Signs include weight loss, persistent or recurrent diarrhea, gingivitis, stomatitis, chronic respiratory disease, lymphadenopathy and chronic skin disease. Ultimately, widespread organ failure occurs, and the cat dies.
Evidence of exposure to FIV is usually detected by a simple blood test. It can take up to two months after exposure for a FIV infected cat to test positive. Occasionally some terminally ill FIV infected cats test negative due to the effect of the virus on the immune system. Unfortunately this test is positive for both exposure to the virus or to vaccination.
Kittens are rarely infected with the virus, but kittens born to infected mothers can initially test positive due to maternal antibody. Any kittens testing positive for FIV should be retested after they are six months old.
There is no cure for FIV infection. Good nutrition and routine veterinary care can help keep infected cats comfortable and help prolong their lives. Eventually most cats will succumb to the disease.
FIV positive cats should be kept indoors, preferably away from uninfected cats. This helps to protect the FIV positive cat from other infectious diseases and prevents the cat from transmitting the feline immunodeficiency virus to other felines. Although it is preferable to keep FIV positive cats away from uninfected cats, rarely do they infect those that they are friendly towards.
Prevention of FIV infection is best accomplished by neutering male cats and keeping cats indoors. There is also a vaccine for FIV, however it is not known if the vaccine will protect against all subtypes of the virus. Since vaccinated cats will test positive on the FIV antibody test, they should be microchipped to ensure that if they end up in a shelter, they are not euthanized because of a positive test.
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