Feline Leukemia

Feline Leukemia

Feline leukemia is a cancerous disease caused by the feline leukemia virus (FeLV).  FeLV causes diseases other than leukemia including other cancerous and immunodeficiency.  Cats may not start to show signs of this disease for months or years after being infected with FeLV.  Infection with FeLV is a major cause of illness and death in domestic cats.

How common is FeLV?
It is estimated that 1-2% of otherwise healthy cats are infected with FeLV.  Males are more commonly infected than females, and cats with access to the outdoors are more at risk of becoming infected than indoor cats.  Kittens are much more susceptible to FeLV infection than adults.  FeLV is found in every region of the United States, it is highly contagious, transmitted cat to cat and can be fatal.


How is FeLV transmitted?
Large amounts of FeLV are excreted in the saliva.  Mutual grooming being the most common mode of transmission.  Nose-to-nose contact and sharing of food and water bowls can also be sources of infection.  And none the less, bites are a very efficient way to transmit the disease.  FeLV can also be transmitted across the placenta and through the milk of nursing cats.

What are the signs of FeLV?

Here are a few but there are no “sure” signs of the disease.  In some cats, signs won’t appear for weeks, months or even years after they have been infected.  That’s why testing is so important.

Weight Loss
Bite wounds
Infected bite wounds
Not drinking water
Bleeding or pale gums
Behavioral changes
Dull or matted coat
Swollen lymph nodes
Mouth sores

How can I keep my cat safe?

First, have your cat tested.  Without testing, there is no way of knowing whether or not your cat is infected.  And without a diagnosis, your cat cannot properly be treated.  Once tested, if negative, then have your cat vaccinated for FeLV.  Village Veterinary Hospital can provide you and your pet with this service and help answer any further questions you may have regarding FeLV.  Please call us at 505-869-2627 and we will be glad to assist you.