What is FIV?
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is caused by a viral infection that interferes with your cat’s immune system and is potentially life threatening.
The virus is very similar to HIV virus that causes AIDS in humans and this is why it is often called cat AIDS. Humans cannot be infected with the cat virus.
How do cats get infected?
FIV is mostly transmitted from one infected cat to the other via fighting and biting. A mother cat can also infect her kittens via her placenta or through her milk. Outdoor cats, especially those getting into fights are at higher risks of contracting the disease.
It is reported that 14-29 % of cats in Australia are FIV positive.
How long will it take for my cat to become sick?
Infected cats may appear healthy for many years. This is called the silent phase. As the immune system gets weaker infected cats will start to show diverse symptoms.
What are the symptoms of FIV?
Initially the infection can cause vague and non-specific symptoms such as fever, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhoea. Generally these symptoms will resolve and the cat will appear healthy for a long period of time. As its immune system gets weaker the cat usually gets prone to all sorts of infections and complications. These include: dental problems and gingivitis, weight loss and poor body condition, loss of appetite, lethargy and depression, pneumonia or upper respiratory tract infection, vomiting and diarrhoea, kidney failure or kidney infection, anaemia, decreased platelets and white blood cell count, swollen lymph nodes, skin problems, eye problems and even cancer such as lymphoma.
Eventually the cat will die from one of these complications and there is no cure for FIV.
How can we tell if a cat is infected?
There is a simple blood test currently available to detect infected cats. It will detect positive cats only 60 days after the infection. It does not detect cats that have been recently infected (less then 60 days).
Kittens can be tested for FIV but sometimes the antibodies they receive from the mother’s milk can cause a false positive result. It is then advised to retest them at 6 months of age.
What do I do if my cat has FIV?
FIV positive cats should be kept indoors to limit their exposure to infection and to prevent them from spreading the disease to other cats. Any other cats in the household should be tested and vaccinated.
Unfortunately there is no cure for FIV but we can treat infections and complications as they arise.
What do I do to protect my cat from FIV?
It is best to keep your cat indoor especially at night and to limit exposure to other cats. If you are introducing a new cat in the household it is best to test it for FIV first. If your cat has been tested negative for FIV it can then be vaccinated against the disease.
FIV vaccination consists of an initial course of 3 injections 2-4 weeks apart followed by an annual booster. The vaccination has been shown to protect 82 % of cats that have been vaccinated. Cats must be tested negative first in order to receive their injections. Vaccination of infected cats will not affect the course of the disease.
We strongly recommend that all vaccinated cats should be microchipped. Once a cat is vaccinated against FIV they will show up as positive on commonly used laboratory tests. This positive results does not mean that the cat has FIV it just shows that they have produced antibodies to protect themselves against the virus.
Many shelters and pounds are testing all newly found cats for FIV. Unfortunately if the result is positive those cats are usually put to sleep as they are mistakenly believed to be infected with FIV because they have been vaccinated. If the cat is microchipped such complications can easily be avoided.
If you have any question about your cat and FIV do not hesitate to contact our team !