Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a viral infection that attacks the immune system of cats. Despite a vaccine being available, FIV is still spreading rapidly throughout our cat population worldwide. In Australia, studies show that between 14 per cent and 29 per cent of cats are infected.
WHAT ARE THE FIVE SYMPTOMS OF FIV?
FIV has three stages of infection:
After infection some cats show no signs of infection, whilst others may display initial symptoms such as: fever, loss of appetite, diarrhea, lethargy and swollen lymph nodes.
During this stage, the virus lays dormant and many cats appear healthy. Like HIV in humans, this is called the sub-clinical phase and can last from months to several years.
In the final stage cats develop “Feline Aids” and enter a chronic infection stage. As the disease progresses, symptoms such as weight loss, sores in and around the mouth, eye lesions, poor wound healing, ear and skin problems may occur.
Neurological signs such as behavioral changes, weakness and in-coordination are often seen late in the course of the disease and tumours called lymphomas often occur. Eventually the immune system becomes too weak to fight off infections and diseases and as a result the cat will die from one of these subsequent infections.
HOW IS THE INFECTION CONTRACTED?
Cats are commonly infected with FIV through bite wounds as the virus is shed in high levels through saliva. Outdoor cats are at a higher risk for contracting the disease. Although rare, it is possible for a mother to pass the infection on to her unborn fetus.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREVENT FELINE AIDS?
Unfortunately there is no treatment or cure for an FIV infected cat. However the good news is vaccination against FIV is available.
Along with vaccination, the following measures will help aid in the prevention of FIV:
• Limiting exposure of indoor cats to outdoor cats.
• Test all new cats for FIV prior to introducing them into a multi cat household.
• Isolate an aggressive cat from other cats.
FIV vaccination guidelines:
• Kittens from 8 weeks:
– Along with routine initial vaccinations against Feline Enteritis, Cat Flu, Chlamydia and Feline Leukemia. Three extra vaccinations against FIV are required with an interval period of 2 weeks between each vaccination.
• Cats 6 months of age and over:
– Blood testing is recommended prior to vaccination. It is important to test prior to vaccination to ensure the cat has not been previously infected with FIV. Once blood testing has confirmed that the cat is FIV negative, a series of three vaccinations is required with an interval period of 2 weeks between each vaccination.
• As with normal feline vaccinations, annual vaccination against FIV is essential to prevent infection.
Ensure your cat is protected against FIV. Contact one of our three conveniently located clinics to book an appointment.