FIV and FeLV – What are the symptoms and how to prevent it?
If you have a cat, you may have heard of or you may have some doubts about
these two dangerous diseases: FIV and FeLV. Get to know them a little better
and learn about their symptoms and prevention measures to be taken.
The feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
have a worldwide distribution and mainly affect domestic cats, even though
they also affect other species of felines. The prevalence of infections by these
agents varies in different geographic regions, with higher incidence of the
diseases where there is a high population density of feral or free-roaming cats.
FeLV and FIV viruses belong to the same family (
), but to different
genus, and are associated with several pathological conditions in domestic
Animals infected with FIV are more susceptible to other infections and to
development of neoplasms, since the disease is associated with imbalances in
the immune system of the animals. Thus, the virus is not directly related to the
clinical manifestations observed, instead, secondary infections are responsible
for the morbid conditions found. Several clinical manifestations have been
seen, and they vary a lot depending on the stage of the infection.
FIV is usually transmitted via direct contact between an infected animal and a
healthy animal, mostly through bites or scratches during fights and disputes in
social interactions between cats. Infected animals generally have a high
survival rate, which puts the other cats in the same household in risk of viral
In FeLV, the clinical signs of infection are varied and nonspecific, depending on
the infected system and on the manifestation of secondary diseases. The
clinical signs normally seen in FeLV-positive animals are neoplasms,
immunosuppression, hematologic disorders, reproductive disorders and
neurological syndromes. In addition to these signs, FeLV-positive animals may
experience weight loss, fever, dehydration, diarrhea, conjunctivitis and oral
Transmission occurs through direct contact between FeLV-positive cats and
healthy cats, and the virus is spread primarily through cats’ saliva. The virus is
also found in blood, nasal secretions, tears, feces, and milk.
The primary way to prevent the spread of these viral infections is avoiding the
contact between healthy and sick animals. Preventing the movement of cats in
and out, thus avoiding their contact with
free-roaming cats, may contribute to
reducing the incidence of these diseases in the feline population. In addition to
avoiding contact, there are currently some commercial vaccines to prevent and
control these diseases.
In order to diagnose FIV and FeLV viruses, several specific laboratory tests
are available. Besides, there are rapid tests, known as SNAP tests, which can
be used by veterinarians as an additional tool to diagnose the diseases.
Therefore, remember to take your pet to the veterinarian regularly so that you
can constantly track and monitor its health. By doing that, you will be providing
a long and healthy life for your little furry friend.
Gabriel Victoria Martins
Technical Commercial Manager for Nutrire Indústria de Alimentos Ltd.