If you are a cat owner then you have most likely heard about the virus Feline leukemia (FeLV). This virus, if contracted, will weaken the immune system of your cat, making them susceptible to developing cancer, blood disorders, and other diseases. So, let us explain how cats can acquire this virus, signs to look out for and what can be done to help avoid contracting it in the first place. 

FeLV is a virus spread from cat to cat through bodily fluids, excrement, mucus/nasal secretions and to kittens through their mother’s milk. It is also possible to be spread if cats share litter boxes and food/water dishes (although this is far more rare of an occurrence). If your cat is a solitary cat with no exposure to other cats, or your cats are indoor only, they will not have the same exposure risks since they won’t be in contact with potentially infected cats. If your cat is bitten or groomed by an infected cat, they have been exposed and can develop the virus. 

Pregnant infected cats can also potentially spread FeLV to their kittens or pass it through their milk and infect them after birth. Since kittens have immune systems weaker than cats, they are far more likely to contract the virus and suffer. 

If your cat has contracted the virus, they may be asymptomatic at first, however as the virus develops symptoms may begin to develop. Some may be a bit misleading as they can be similar to other viral infections as well. Below is a list of the most common symptoms your kitten/cat may experience with Feline Leukemia Virus:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite leading to gradual weight loss
  • Lethargy & Seizures
  • Eye disorders
  • Pale or inflamed gums
  • Poor coat appearance
  • Anemia 
  • Infections of the upper respiratory tract, skin, and/or bladder
  • Behavioral changes
  • Swollen lymph nodes

If your cat is showing any of these symptoms, bring them into your veterinarian’s office for a thorough exam. A blood test will be performed to accurately diagnose the virus and although there is no treatment or cure, your veterinarian will be able to help treat the symptoms to improve their quality of life. An infected cat will usually succumb to the virus within 2 to 3 years, unfortunately.  

There is a FeLV vaccine which does help does help to protect them but it is not 100% guaranteed protection. The best protection for your feline companion(s) is to keep them indoors at all times. Before you choose to adopt, rescue or purchase a kitten or cat, make sure they have been tested (and are negative) for the FeLV virus. If you have multiple cats and one does test positive, you will need to separate them to avoid spreading it to your other cats.

Contact us today at 410-465-6218 to schedule an annual wellness exam for your feline friend. We will test them for FeLV and provide vaccinations if they test negative. If your cat or kitten is FeLV positive, we are here to help make them comfortable and keep them as healthy as possible. Call your local Ellicott City, MD veterinarian today to protect your cat from the Feline Leukemia virus.