Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV): Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, and Treatment
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, or "FIV" is a serious disease weakening the immune system of cats and making them more vulnerable to infections. Also called, "Feline Aids", FIV actually acts very similar to HIV in humans.
What are the Symptoms of Feline Aids?
FIV is commonly confused with FeLV, or Feline Leukemia Virus (discussed in a previous blog of mine ) but while they are both infectious diseases, they are definitely different.
If you think your cat might have FIV, look for the following symptoms:
- Poor Appetite
- Poor Coat Condition
- Gingivitis Stomatitis (Dental and Mouth Sore Issues)
- Chronic Infections of the skin, eyes, urinary or respiratory tract
- Enlarged Lymph Nodes
These are just a few of the most common symptoms. There are many more.
If your cat shows signs of behavioral discomfort or their mood changes, especially if they've been in a fight with another cat, it's best to bring your cat into the vet to discuss them. Your vet will run a blood test to find out if your cat is FIV-positive. If your cat is tested FIV positive, you'll have to keep your cat isolated from other cats. Feline aids, like human aids, is transmittable.
However, humans and non-feline animals can NOT get this virus.
How Do Cats Get Feline Aids?
Bite Wounds. Outdoor cats are more susceptible to this disease, as bite wounds are the most common cause of transmission from one cat to another.
Inherited. Just like FeLV, FIV can be transmitted from a mother to her kittens. However, the mother cat can also pass on antibodies to her kittens. To find out if the kittens have the antibodies, testing them at 6 months old is imperative to make sure they are not infected with this virus.
Living with a FIV Infected Cat? Unfortunately, it is not common for cats to get FIV through sharing litter boxes, bowls of food or water, grooming of each other and other common non-aggressive interactions.
Can Feline Aids Be Prevented?
Spay or Neuter. Un-neutered male cats are at an increased risk of contracting the FIV virus as they tend to get in fights with other outdoor cats protecting their territory or over a female cat. Just one more great reason to neuter or spay your cat!
Keep Them Inside. Keeping your cat indoors is a great way to prevent this disease.
Have Stray Cats Tested. If you bring in a stray cat, before introducing them to your other cat(s), have them tested for FIV and FeLV. Keep the stray cat in a separate room until your vet can give you the ok for interaction with your cats.
Vaccinate? Although there is a vaccine for FIV, it has two major flaws in it. 1. When a cat gets the vaccination, they will test positive for the virus, even though they do not have it. 2. The vaccine is NOT 100% fool-proof. There is no safe way to know the difference between a "true-positive" carrier and a "vaccine-positive carrier." Veterinarians, therefore, are not big on recommending the vaccine
Should I Vaccinate My Cat for Feline Aids?
Should you just test your cat for the FIV virus? Does your cat have yearly checkups with your vet? The pros and cons of the Feline Aids vaccine should definitely be discussed with your vet. Be sure to share details of your cat's lifestyle like:
- Whether they are outdoor or strictly indoor
- Whether you've seen stray cats in your neighborhood
- Whether your cat is neutered or spayed
These could play a huge factor of whether your cat would be a good candidate for the vaccine.
Can Feline Aids Be Cured or Treated?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for FIV. Once a cat has it, they will have it for life. However, there is some good news: infected cats can still live long, healthy and happy lives!
Here's what Feline Aids well- care treatment might entail:
- Regular Vet Visits. A Cat with FIV might require twice a year checkups with your vet
- Parasite Control. Parasites can weaken an already weak immune system.
- Immediate Medical Attention for Any Illness. If your cat shows any type of illness, seek medical attention immediately through your vet.
- Single Cat House. Keep your cat safely away from other cats.
- Indoors Only. Keeping them indoors will ensure this type of safety.
- Healthy Diet. Feed your cat a healthy, high quality food.
- Stress Free Home. Stress can weaken an immune system. Adding a new cat or dog is probably not a good idea for FIV infected cats. Moving should also be avoided if at all possible.
If the disease progresses blood transfusions, fluid and electrolyte replacement, anti-inflammatory drugs or immune enhancing drugs may be necessary.
I hope these tips help you and your cat stay safe and healthy!
Cat Fancy Magazine, 2011