BUFFALO VETERINARIANS

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BUFFALO COMPANION ANIMAL CLINIC

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Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is transmitted through saliva, most commonly via bite wounds, between cats. FIV is in the same viral class as HIV. FIV only affects cats; it cannot be transmitted to any other species. Outdoor cats that roam (males especially) are at the highest risk of contracting FIV because they are most likely to fight with other felines and incur bite wounds. FIV can also be transmitted from a positive mother to her kittens.

FIV causes immunosuppression to the point at which the immune system cannot function to its full capacity and succumbs to infections that aren’t severe in immunocompetent individuals. Once a cat becomes infected with FIV, it is infected for life.

The acute phase of illness occurs for 4-6 weeks after infectionand can cause fever, depression and enlarged lymph nodes. Many of these signs can be very mild and usually go undetected by the owner. After recovery from this phase, many cats will be clinically normal for 3 or more years. During this asymptomatic period, the virus is gradually destroying the immune system, limiting its ability to fight infection/disease.

Once the cat (possibly after a period of years post-infection) becomes symptomatic the following signs may be seen: chronic mouth infections, abscesses, chronic nasal/eye discharge, chronic ear infections, persistent fever, poor hair coat and chronic diarrhea. These infections typically respond to treatment initially but then will recur after treatment is completed. FIV can also affect the bone marrow, causing decreased numbers of red and white blood cells. Malignancy of lymph node cells (lymphosarcoma) also develops with increased frequency in FIV positive cats.

Diagnosis

FIV can be diagnosed in the clinic with a small blood sample. The in-house test takes approximately 15 minutes to run. This is a combination test, also testing for feline leukemia virus, another virus transmitted between cats. It is possible for cats to carry both of these viruses. The test may show a false negative result up to 60 days post-infection. If your cat has bite wounds, etc. it is important to test at least two months after the bite occurred for an accurate assessment of viral status.

Treatment

To date, there is no effective treatment against the virus itself. Treatment goals are aimed at controlling secondary infection and supportive care to maximize quality of life.

Prognosis

Prognosis is extremely variable from patient to patient. If the immune system is completely compromised, the prognosis is grave. Many cats with partial immune suppression can live for several years with prompt treatment of secondary infections. Many of these patients require long-term antibiotics, etc. In time, even these patients will come to the point their immune systems cannot fight off infections and become critically ill.

Prevention

There is no truly efficacious vaccine against FIV so prevention is aimed at reducing/eliminating the risk of transmission. Keeping cats indoors and decreasing contact with other cats will reduce the risk of infection. It is also important to test any new cat or kitten being introduced into a household with existing cats BEFORE THEY HAVE CONTACT WITH EACH OTHER.

IF YOUR CAT IS FIV POSITIVE, IT IS IMPORTANT TO KEEP IT INDOORS & AWAY FROM OTHER CATS SO YOUR CAT IS NOT A SOURCE OF INFECTION FOR OTHERS.


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