Feline Leukemia Virus Disease Complex
The feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is responsible for more cat diseases than any other infectious agent and is second only to trauma as the leading cause of death in household cats. It is the most important cause of cancer in cats and significantly contributes to the severity of other feline diseases. The virus is transmitted from one cat to another by infected saliva. Sharing water bowls or food dishes, cat-to-cat grooming, and cat bites can also spread the disease. The virus can be shed to a lesser extent in urine and feces. Kittens can acquire the virus in utero and through infected mother's milk.
The incidence of active infection varies. About 1 to 2 percent of healthy, free-roaming cats are infected. In multicat households and in catteries, the incidence may be higher, in some cases with 20 to 30 percent of cats showing the presence of FeLV virus in the blood. About 50 percent show neutralizing antibodies, indicating prior infection from which the cat has recovered. Ill feral or free-roaming urban cats may have an incidence as high as 40 percent.
Signs of Illness
The initial illness lasts 2 to 16 weeks. Signs are nonspecific and include fever, apathy, and loss of appetite and weight. Other signs are vomiting and constipation or diarrhea. Some cats develop enlarged lymph nodes, anemia, and pale mucous membranes. Death at this stage is not common and signs may be so mild that they are missed.
Following exposure to the virus, there are four possible outcomes for cats:
- Allergic Skin Disorders
- Bacterial Skin Diseases
- Bites and Infestations
- Diseases of Pigment
- Fungal Skin Diseases
- Medical Anatomy and Illustrations
- Noncancerous, Precancerous & Cancerous Tumors
- Oral Health Conditions
- Papules, Scales, Plaques and Eruptions
- Scalp, Hair and Nails
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
- Vascular, Lymphatic and Systemic Conditions
- Viral Skin Diseases
- Additional Skin Conditions