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What Is Felv In Cats

Felv Vaccine Types And Efficacy

What is Feline Leukemia Virus?

Several types of FeLV vaccines are available , but their relative efficacy remains controversial. Inactivated vaccines contain a killed version of FeLV, so the virus cannot replicate in the host. They contain adjuvants that help to promote an adequate immune response. Adjuvants have been implicated in adverse reactions, though the evidence is mixed.6 Recombinant vaccines encode a part of an immunogenic FeLV antigen that undergoes limited replication in the host and stimulates a protective immune response. They may trigger a more rapid onset of immunity, and they do not contain adjuvant. Conflicting evidence in the literature regarding the efficacy and safety of inactivated versus recombinant vaccines makes it difficult to recommend one type over the other.6

  • Adjuvanted inactivated whole virus vaccine
  • Recombinant subunit vaccine
  • Genetically engineered subunit recombinant canarypox vector vaccine

Duration of immunity is also difficult to know. Several studies have shown that the DOI is at least 12 months, and in many cases, it is 24 to 36 months.1,5

All cats should be tested before vaccination. There is no benefit to vaccinating cats that have FeLV, and unnecessary vaccinations carry risk. If a vaccinated cats status is unknown before immunization and the cat later develops a progressive infection, the vaccines efficacy could be inappropriately questioned and vaccine failure may be incorrectly assumed.1

Can Cat Leukemia Be Prevented

Yes, cat leukemia can be prevented through vaccination and by keeping your pet indoors and away from other infected animals. If your cat does go outdoors, protect them by keeping them on a leash or providing an enclosed outdoor structure. The FeLV vaccine is considered a lifestyle vaccine, so talk with your vet about its pros and cons. You can make the decision together regarding if it’s right for your cat.

While it can be emotionally taxing to receive a cat leukemia diagnosis, it’s important to stay calm while you put together a plan with your veterinarian. The best course of action you can take is to follow their advice to a T.

What You Should Do If Your Cat Has Felv Fiv Or Fip

Feline Leukemia Virus

There is no cure for FeLV infection at this time. Your veterinarian will prescribe medications that will treat the secondary infections that result from the disease. Normally your cat will not be hospitalized, but if they have any severe infections or other complications , hospitalization may be needed. If your cat developed cancer as a result of FeLV, your vet might recommend chemotherapy.

It is important that you have your cat examined every 6 months by their veterinarian. The purpose is to prevent complications from the virus as well as identify problems early. It may be recommended to have your cats teeth cleaned, and teeth extractions may be necessary, as dental infections can cause complications. If your cat does show any signs of illness, immediately have them evaluated by their vet.

It is important to keep your cat indoors. Provide them with a proper diet. If there is diarrhea, kidney damage, etc., as a result of FeLV, your cat may need a special diet. Consult with your veterinarian to see if any supplements can be added to their diet to boost their immune system.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

There is no cure for FIV, but your cat can live a normal and healthy life if they are cared for appropriately. Once your cat has been diagnosed by their veterinarian, the best thing you can do for them is the following:

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

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Can Cats With Felv Live A Normal Life

The information we discussed above may be daunting, but its important to remember one thing FeLV does not have to be a death sentence.

Its unfortunate how many cats in shelter and rescue situations are euthanized due to their positive result, but the diagnosis itself does not mean your cat will have a life filled with suffering.

Yes, they may struggle at some point, but many can live a normal life until then.

If a cat is generally healthy at the time of diagnosis, most will have a standard life expectancy of 2-3 years.

Your cat could also be one of the lucky ones that fight off the virus with their immune system, meaning they could have many years ahead of them before any complications arise.

If your cat is not suffering at the point of their diagnosis, euthanasia does not have to be the only option on the table.

Cats with FeLV can continue to live normal lives as long as you are dedicated to monitoring their weight, their appetite, their energy levels, their litter box habits, and their general appearance in terms of skin and coat health.

Staying on top of any changes can allow you to seek veterinary care at the start of any health complications, giving them the chance at proper management.

Your cats life may be shorter than others, but their life can still be wonderful up until you have to say goodbye.

Again, every case will vary, so we always suggest speaking with your vet about your cats prognosis.

How Is Cat Leukemia Diagnosed

Study: 95% of adopters with FeLV cats have a positive experience

If your veterinarian suspects your cat has FeLV, they can be screened through a simple ELISA snap blood test. If your veterinarian uses a reference laboratory, snap test results can be available within 24 hours. In some instances, this test can also be performed right in the office while you wait.

The snap test detects the virus in the blood however, it is not 100 percent accurate. If a cat tests positive for FeLV, another blood sample must be sent to the lab to confirm infection through an IFA test . In some cases, a PCR blood test is run as well. Your vet will be the best resource on which test is right for your cat.

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Treatment For Feline Leukemia Virus

Eighty-five percent of cats persistently infected with feline leukemia virus die within three years of diagnosis. However, regular veterinary check-ups and good preventive health care can help keep these cats feeling well for some time and help protect them from secondary infection. Twice-yearly physical examinations, laboratory testing, and parasite control can prevent complications and identify problems quickly. All FeLV infected cats should be kept indoors and be neutered.

There is presently no cure for FeLV infection. Secondary infections can be treated as they appear, and cats with cancer can receive chemotherapy. However, the prognosis is grave for cats with bone marrow compromise or widespread lymphoma.

How To Prevent This From Happening In The Future

Feline Leukemia Virus

Prevention of FeLV is not always possible, but there are steps you can take to lessen the chances of your cat being infected and protect them if they are.

If you adopt a kitten or a stray cat, be sure to have them tested by a veterinarian for FeLV. If your cat is negative, be sure to have them vaccinated for FeLV. Even though your cat is vaccinated, it is still recommended to keep them indoors and avoid contact with outdoor and indoor/outdoor cats. If your vaccinated cat is exposed to a FeLV infected cat, be sure to let their veterinarian know because it may be necessary to retest them . Additionally, if a new cat is going to be introduced into your home, be sure to keep them separated from your other cats until you have them tested.

If your cat is FeLV positive, keep them indoors and ideally separated from healthy non-infected cats. It is critical to help support their immune system with good nutrition and supplements. Be sure to maintain excellent dental care as well. Regularly, twice to once yearly, be sure that you have your veterinarian completely examine them and perform essential lab work to be sure they are healthy. Always monitor your cat closely for any signs of illness and if noticed, seek veterinary care without delay.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Always isolate new cats entering the home until they are fully vaccinated, tested , and known to be disease-free.

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What About Felv In Community Cats

Alley Cat Allies, informed by the advice of our veterinary experts, strongly recommends against testing community cats for FeLV. Studies show that FeLV is present in community cats at an equally low rate as in owned cats. There is no need for particular concerns about community cats, who thrive in their outdoor homes.

In addition to low rates of FeLV and poor viability of the virus, the cost of testing makes regular community cat FeLV tests irresponsible. Plus, these costly tests can provide inconclusive results. Not only can testing needlessly endanger community cats lives if their results are positive, it simply isnt worth the money spent.

Investing funds in spay and neuter programs like TNR, Shelter-Neuter-Return and Return-To-Field is a far better way to protect cats outdoors from FeLV. You can find the details in the How Can FeLV Transmission Be Prevented? section above

Caregivers can help community cats with FeLV by providing care including:

  • Shelter or a quiet place to rest
  • Good nutrition
  • Swift veterinary services if cats ever appear ill

As of 2020, the American Association of Feline Practitioners Feline Retrovirus Testing and Management Guidelines are now further in line with Alley Cat Allies FeLV recommendations.

What Are The Signs Of Feline Leukemia

What to Know About FeLV Cats

There are no universal symptoms since some cats will not show any signs for years, and once they do, their symptoms probably wont completely match the ones of other cats with FeLV.

However, the most frequent symptoms are the following: enlarged lymph nodes, stomatitis, gum ulceration, heavy breathing, diarrhea, lethargy, fever, yellow color in the whites of eyes, bad fur quality, etc.

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How Do We Diagnose Fiv

There are several blood tests for FIV and FeLV, with the most commonly run FIV test done in veterinary clinics being an ELISA test this is automatically combined with a blood test for Feline Leukemia . The FIV ELISA tests for antiviral antibodies, while the FeLV tests for the presence of FeLV or its antigens. Why is this important to know? Because kittens that have been exposed to their moms blood may test FIV-positive, but may seroconvert to FIV-negative several months to years later. Kittens that test positive should be tested every 6 months for several years to confirm if they have FIV.

Your Cat Felv And Fiv: Retroviruses 101

Few infectious diseases of cats have the emotional and physical impact of feline retrovirus infections, more commonly referred to as Feline Immunodefficiency Virus and Feline Leukemia Virus . The incidence of FeLV and FIV is significant. The American Association of Feline Practitioners reports that in a study of 18,000 cats, 2.3% were positive for FeLV and 2.5% were positive for FIV! Are FeLV and FIV newly recognized diseases? These viruses have existed for an unknown time. They likely mutated from a related virus of another species. FeLV has been recognized since the mid-1960s and FIV was first recognized in the mid-1980s.How are FeLV and FIV spread?Direct transfers of bodily fluids, such as saliva, are needed to transmit both of these infections from cat to cat. FeLV is typically spread during friendly behaviors like grooming or sharing common food and water bowls. FIV is primarily transmitted via deep punctures and scratches during fighting where saliva from an infected cat enters the body. Both diseases can be slow to develop and clinical signs arrive at varying times after infection. Both viruses may be found in cats that are seemingly healthy and free of clinical symptoms. Although FIV is not always fatal in cats, it can produce carrier states that spread the disease for years.

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Can You Treat Feline Leukemia Virus

Unfortunately, there is no set treatment for FeLV in cats.

Most cats with regressive or progressive FeLV will eventually pass due to complications of the virus, ranging from chronic illness to forms of cancer.

The best management options involve treating any complications as they come, and making the cat as comfortable as possible during any flare ups.

Most cats either pass away or have to be euthanized within 2-3 years of initial diagnosis.

This of course varies based on how severe their infection is, and whether or not they are experiencing severe health complications.

Pet Insurance And Felv

Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) in cats

Pet insurance can help you manage the costs of treating a cat with FeLV. Those costs can rise quickly, especially if hospitalization, chemotherapy, and other advanced treatments are needed. One ASPCA Pet Health Insurance customer filed a claim for more than $1,765 for an infected cat.* You can also get reimbursed for screenings, vaccines, and annual visits if you add preventive care coverage at a low additional cost.

Dont wait until your cat is sickget a free quote now!

*Internal Claims Data, 2016

*Pre-existing conditions are not covered. Waiting periods, annual deductible, co-insurance, benefit limits and exclusions may apply. For all terms and conditions visit Preventive and Wellness Care reimbursements are based on a schedule. Complete Coverage reimbursements are based on the invoice. Levels 1-4 reimbursements are based on usual and customary eligible costs. Products, schedules, and rates may vary and are subject to change. Discounts may vary and are subject to change. More information available at checkout.

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My Cat Has Tested Positive For Felv

What happens now?

Once a cat is permanently infected, there is no cure. It is likely that the cats lifespan will be shortened, but there is no way of predicting how long an individual cat that is currently healthy will live. However, such a cat can infect other cats, and should be kept indoors and away from other uninfected cats, including cats in the same household. A test is available that can check for antibodies likely to give immunity to the virus, which may be used for cats in the same household.

Key points

  • One positive test result does not mean that your cat definitely has the infection and a negative does not mean the cat is absolutely clear
  • Infected cats can infect others and should be kept separate
  • Infection with leukaemia can cause a variety of illnesses
  • Vaccination is not totally protective
  • Infected mothers usually infect all their kittens

If you have a cat infected with the leukaemia virus, you can help to prolong a healthy existence by trying to limit the chances of contact with infection. Keeping these cats indoors is in their own interest, and they should not be fed foods that may carry bacteria, such as raw meat or eggs. Regular check-ups with the vet are a good idea, and prompt attention is essential if they are unwell. Antibiotic courses are likely to be needed for infections. Routine vaccinations should be kept up to date, although you should discuss with your vet whether it might be better to use a special killed vaccine.

What about vaccination?

How Long Can I Expect My Felv

It is impossible to predict the life span of any cat, regardless of their current health status. Cats with a regressive FeLV infection can remain healthy for many years. The administration of drugs that suppress the immune system, or illnesses that compromise the immune system, can rarely cause reactivation of the virus to progressive infection in some cats. Cats with progressive infection have a higher risk of developing a life-threatening illness, which can appear as soon as the first few years after infection. FeLV most often causes illness by damaging the immune system, putting cats at risk of opportunistic infections and certain types of cancer. While there is no cure for FeLV infection, supportive care for illnesses caused by FeLV can improve the cats length and quality of life.

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Cat Leukemia: Symptoms Testing And Prevention


Although cat leukemia, also known as feline leukemia virus or FeLV, can be a difficult virus to manage, pets with it can still live happy, relatively long lives. Understanding feline leukemia symptoms can help you better care for a cat with this disease. Additionally, by being familiar with FeLV itself, you may be able to detect it sooner or prevent it altogether.

Prevention And Control Of Feline Leukemia Virus

What is FIV & FeLV?

Testing should be done in the following situations:

  • All kittens at their first veterinary visit

  • All cats prior to entering a household with existing uninfected cats

  • All cats in an existing household prior to admission of a new, uninfected cat

  • All cats prior to their first feline leukemia virus vaccination

Vaccines are recommended only for uninfected cats at risk.

Feline leukemia virus is usually ultimately fatal. but infected cats may still have a good quality of life. The average survival time after diagnosis is 2.4 years, but some cats will appear “healthy” for multiple years. The disease typically develops faster in kittens than in adults, and some adults ultimately succumb to unrelated conditions.

A vaccine is available to prevent feline leukemia virus infection. Your veterinarian will tell you whether it is appropriate for your cat. The virus does not spread to people.

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How Is Felv Diagnosed In Cats

There are several tests that can determine whether a cat is infected with FeLV. One test called ELISA looks for the virus in the blood. This test will determine whether the cat has the virus but not at what stage. Its possible to test positive on this test and find that the virus hasnt infected the bone marrow. This means that the cat could still fight the virus off themselves.

Be aware though that false positives and negatives are common. As such, if positive, a second test will usually be completed about twelve weeks after the first.


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