Feline AIDS – Is your cat protected
In Australia it is reported that between 14% and 29% of cats are positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). FIV is spread from cat to cat through bite wounds. Spring is the time where cats venture out and are more likely to get into trouble.
What is FIV?
Feline immunodeficiency virus or FIV is a viral infection of cats that is similar in many ways to Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in people. Although HIV and FIV are very similar FIV only infects cats and HIV only infects humans. Thus there is no risk of infection for people in contact with FIV-positive cats. But your cat might be at risk!
Which cats are at risk?
The most common method of spread of FIV is from bites during fighting. For this reason cats that live outside, have a feisty nature and get into fights, particularly with stray cats in the area are at increased risk. However, your peaceful moggy is still at risk if she is being beaten up the neighbourhood feral! It only takes one bite for your cat to end up with a lifelong infection!
What is FIV and how does it cause disease?
FIV affects the immune system causing a gradual decline in the cat’s immune function. Early stages of infection may not cause many problems but as the disease progresses, infected cats will be unable to fight of infections and may also be at increased risk of cancer and other diseases.
What are the clinical signs of an FIV infection
The signs of FIV infection are fairly non-specific. Early on in the course of the disease they may be just ‘off colour’. Later on, the cat’s poor ability to fight off infection can leave them prone to many infections and diseases. They are also at increased risk of developing some cancers. These conditions can take many forms and therefore the clinical signs are quite variable. Some diseases are more common in FIV infected cats than in other cats. Nasty inflammation of the gums and infection around the teeth is often seen, as well as chronic snuffling and sneezing, or chronic eye infections.
How is FIV diagnosed?
There are several different blood tests for diagnosing FIV infection. Many of these tests can be done in-house.
To date there is no antiviral treatment that has been shown to reverse an established FIV infection. The main aim of management of an FIV-infected cat is to concentrate on keeping them healthy and avoiding challenges to their immune system. This means ensuring they have good dental health, avoiding cat fights, maintaining a healthy bladder and healthy weight. If they do become sick, it is important to act quickly.
Long-term management of the FIV-infected cat
Cats infected with FIV should ideally be kept indoors, for their own protection and to prevent spread of the virus to other cats. Good nutrition is essential to maintain good health, we recommend a premium food like Hill’s Science diet. It is best to avoid raw meat because the risk of food-borne bacterial and parasitic infections. It’s important to stay up to date with flea, worm and tick prevention and vaccination. Cats infected with FIV should receive wellness visits at least every 6 months to promptly detect changes in their health status.
A vaccine for FIV is available. The vaccine is not fool proof but will offer most cats protection most of the time. If your cat is at high risk of infection, such as an outside cat that gets into fights, then vaccination may be right for them. For cats at low risk of infection, such as indoor only cats, vaccination is not necessary. If one cat in a household is confirmed to be FIV positive there are options to protect the other cats in the home. It is recommended to vaccinate the uninfected cats to give them added protection. It may be helpful to feed cats using separate food bowls. Litter trays and food bowls should be disinfected after use.
Prognosis for infected cats
The prognosis for FIV-infected cats is not as grim as first thought. If the diagnosis of FIV infection is reached early in the course of the disease, there may be a long period during which the cat is free of clinical signs related to FIV. If good health is maintained and any stress on the immune system is managed than most cats will remain well. Progression of the disease may happen and some cats do die from FIV related illness but many cats live out a happy life despite infection.
Some of the information extracted from the International Cat Care website.
In the months of September and October Inner South Veterinary Centre is running FIV Awareness month. We offering FREE FIV tests during these months for people wanting to start their cats on a FIV vaccination course. One lucky feline family (who have started FIV vaccination course) will win a cat carrier!