Feline Leukaemia Virus appears to be making something of a comeback.
10 years ago, we used to see cats on a weekly basis with Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) but its incidence dropped dramatically. More recently however, we have recorded a higher level of infections at all of the Donaldson’s Vets surgeries in the area.
Leukaemia in cats can be the sporadic, non infectious kind that we unfortunately hear of in people or it can be caused by a viral infection.
The FeLV virus, although having no human health implications, can be passed from cat to cat. It can be passed by the venereal route, from mother to kittens or, most commonly in blood and saliva from cat bites and scratches.
Typically, cats which fight frequently, such as un-neutered tom cats, are most susceptible.
One of the reasons that FeLV is so difficult to control is that cats can be subclinically infected for years and years but show no signs of illness. There is nothing to alert the owner, or even a Vet, to the fact that the cat has contracted FeLV. During the time between being infected and becoming ill, they can spread the virus to cats that they come into contact with.
Sooner or later, the FeLV +ve cat will become ill; the signs can take many forms including weakness, lethargy, loss of appetite. Affected cats often become anaemic as the bone marrow is destroyed, and can be prone to a variety of infections as the immune system is damaged. Sometimes solid tumours form as well as the circulating cancer cells in the blood.
Sadly, there is little that the Vet can do to alleviate the signs in cats once FeLV is established, and sadly, most affected cats need to be put to sleep.
Fortunately, there is a safe and highly effective vaccine which will prevent your cat getting FeLV if they are immunised before exposure to the virus. As such FeLV infection is an entirely preventable disease so contact your Vet for details before it is too late.