Many people believe that the feline leukemia virus, also known as FeLV, only causes the type of blood cancer called leukemia. While it can lead to leukemia and other types of cancers, FeLV can also cause low body weight, problems with reproduction, eye diseases, blood platelet disorders, immune deficiency, gastrointestinal problems, and several other serious health concerns. Kittens and unvaccinated adult cats acquire the virus through contact with another cat who already has it. It’s not possible for humans, dogs, or other animals to become infected with FeLV.

How to Recognize FeLV
Kittens, who are most at risk of acquiring this virus, can pick it up from an infected mother while still developing in the womb or by nursing from her. When adult cats develop FeLV, it’s typically from sharing bedding, litter boxes, or food dishes with an infected cat. Additionally, an adult cat could engage in mutual grooming with an infected cat, receive a bite from one, or have contact with infected waste products. Besides being born to an infected mother, the greatest risk of cats developing FeLV comes from spending a lot of time outdoors unsupervised or living with several other cats.
 
The initial symptoms of FeLV are often vague, making it difficult to diagnose at first. Your cat could display unexplained lethargy, appetite loss, weight loss, and fever that could make you suspect several other health problems before FeLV. We encourage you to contact Battletown Animal Hospital right away if your cat displays any of these symptoms. She might not have FeLV, but it’s important to determine what she does have.
 
Approximately one-third of cats exposed to the virus have a strong enough immunity not to develop any symptoms. Another third develop a latent infection, which means that they eventually develop some of the symptoms. The remaining percentage of infected cats develop a persistent infection. They typically become seriously ill within a few years.
 
Diagnosis, Prevention, and Treatment of FeLV
If your cat is at high risk of FeLV or you’re concerned he could have been exposed to it, speak to us about a preventive vaccine. We also encourage you to get a FeLV test when your cat becomes ill or before bringing another cat home. If you have multiple cats, all should receive an FeLV blood test if one cat has received a positive diagnosis.
 
Once your cat does receive a positive diagnosis, she should not go outdoors. It would be too easy for her to spread the virus to other cats and she could pick up additional illnesses as well. Make sure that any veterinarian you see knows your cat is FeLV-positive so she can receive the proper treatment. Lastly, we recommend keeping up with all preventive care exams and providing a safe, enriching, and stress-free indoor environment for your cat. 
 
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