Feline Immunodeficiency virus is related to the HIV virus. It is strictly a cat disease. It cannot survive outside of the cat. This virus can be killed easily with household products like bleach. It is transmitted by close contact between cats. It can be found in blood, saliva and cerebrospinal fluid. Infection can be spread between mother to unborn kittens but this is not common.
Symptoms of this disease are fever, enlarged lymph nodes, low blood counts, anemia, kidney disease, liver disease, loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, gingivitis, nervous disorders, eye disorders, cystitis, pneumonia, to name a few. The pattern of this disease closely resembles the human form of HIV. Because of this, the disease is often called “feline aids”.
A blood test can confirm infection of this disease. A positive test in kittens under 12 weeks of age can be a false positive and should be checked again after 12 weeks of age preferably at 6 months of age.
Treatment is strictly supportive for there still is not a cure. A vaccine has not yet been developed so contact with infected cats must not be allowed. New cats in the house should be thoroughly checked before introducing them to the cats already in the house.
The de la Houssaye Animal Hospital believes that the best way to prevent infection of your cat with “feline aids” is the following:
- Prevent contact with cats you are not familiar with.
- Do not allow your cats to roam the neighborhood.
- Surgically neuter or spay your cat for this reduces the need or desire for cats to roam away from home and contact sick animals.
- See Feline Infectious Peritonitis page and recommendations for prevention of that disease.
It has been the experience of de la Houssaye Animal Hospital that cats which contract and carry FIV can live long happy lives. It is not the opinion of de la Houssaye Animal Hospital that cats positive for this virus should automatically be euthanized. With the appropriate measures taken, these cats can continue to be very good pets in certain households.
There is currently a vaccine in production for the prevention of feline immunodeficiency virus. It is currently under investigation by the FDA for approval. If and when that approval takes place, we hope to get the information available to help our office decide whether to recommend this vaccine or not. All of the information we have has been passed on by the manufacturer. This is very promising and we hope that it proves to be beneficial to all cat owners.