Feline immunodeficiency virus, simply known as FIV, is a slow-moving viral disease that greatly affects the immune system of a cat. Though the virus does not show obvious symptoms during the primary years of infection, it should not be taken lightly. Once the disease takes hold, the infected cat’s immune system will be severely weakened, making it vulnerable to a number of secondary infections. This may leave you asking, how is it caused? What are the symptoms? And how can it be treated?
What causes FIV?
There are various ways FIV can be transmitted.
- FIV is commonly transmitted through scratches and deep bite wounds.
- This is quite prominent during violent brawls or fights and territorial disagreements with other cats outdoors.
- Although FIV is found in semen, sexual transmission is quite rare.
- Another uncommon way to pass this disease is from mother to kitten during birth.
- FIV-positive mothers can transmit the virus to her kittens. However, kittens are likely to be positive of the disease only during its early life, from four to six months. This is presumed because antibodies from the mother are transferred in the bloodstream of the kittens during the early times. Usually, after that period, kittens are free from FIV.
What are the symptoms of this viral disease?
The symptoms of FIV are not likely visible during the early years of infection, hence the cat will appear normal. However, when symptoms start to develop, they will progress continually. Since the viral disease is very slow-acting, cats may start showing frequent signs of illness for years. The following is the list of FIV symptoms:
- Recurrent minor sickness such as fever, gastrointestinal infections, and upper respiratory infections
- Enlargement of lymph nodes
- Poor appetite and weight loss
- Constant diarrhoea
- Eye diseases such as conjunctivitis and glaucoma
- Gingivitis or inflammation of the gums, and stomatitis which is mouth inflammation
- Straining to urinate, urinating frequently, or urinating outside the litter tray
- Hair loss, redness of the skin, and wounds not healing
- Dental issues or diseases
- Change in behaviour
Please get your cat examined if he or she is demonstrating any of the symptoms mentioned.
What are the stages of cat FIV?
Primary stage of the disease: This stage is likely to last for about two to four weeks, usually spontaneously resolved or can become incredibly severe, which may lead to fatality.
Next stage: A lengthy hidden stage where cats would seem externally healthy.
Terminal stage: This stage will take place in the latter for as long as seven to ten years, although seldom sooner. The disease is associated with cancer or deficiency in the immune system.
Which types of cats are likely more prone to this disease?
Any cats are vulnerable to this disease. However, outdoor, free-roaming male cat that is constantly involved in fights are more probable to acquire the disease. Indoor cats are least plausible to infection.
Diagnosis of FIV
A thorough examination will be performed on your cat by your veterinarian. Your cat’s entire medical history will be taken into account. The veterinarian will have to rule out viral, fungal, or bacterial infections. Other tests include:
- Complete blood profiling
- Complete blood count
- Chemical blood profile
In addition, before concluding the final, overall diagnosis, the veterinarian will also do a test for tumours and parasites.
Such definite antiviral treatment for FIV is yet to be discovered. Since cats are capable of carrying the virus for years before the symptoms show, treatments are rather focused mainly on the extension of the asymptomatic period. But if the symptoms have developed, easing the secondary effects of the infection will be targeted. The following are treatments your veterinarian might prescribe:
- Drugs for anti-inflammation
- Treatment for secondary infections
- Diet to encourage and promote proper nutrition
- Parasite control
- Electrolyte and fluid alternative therapy
- Drugs that are immune-enhancing
How serious is FIV? What happens if FIV is left untreated?
A recent study shows that a cat’s life expectancy is not directly affected by FIV, and that a cat might live on despite the infection. However, FIV makes cats vulnerable to other health and medical problems. Secondary infections can become more prevalent, and life-threatening consequence might happen without appropriate treatment. FIV-infected cats can develop all sorts of cancer. Therefore, protecting FIV-infected cats from acquiring other serious diseases is important.
FIV-infected cat care/prevention
- Make sure that your cat is neutered or spayed.
- It would be best to let your cat stay indoors; this will prevent them from coming in contact with possible transmitters of the disease.
- Be wary of the changes in your cat’s behaviour and health, even the minor ones.
- Provide your cat a nutritionally balanced diet. Avoid feeding them raw food for it might have parasites and bacteria, which can be harmful to immunocompromised felines.
- Get your cat regularly checked up even at least twice a year, including blood count and urinalysis.
Can humans be infected with FIV from cats?
Despite FIV being similar to HIV, the infection is specific to affecting felines only. So, no, humans cannot be infected with FIV.
Know more about preventive measures against different cat health concerns here!