July 16th is Feline Leukemia Day. Feline Leukemia, or FeLV, is one of the most common infectious diseases we see in our feline pals. About 3 percent of our feline buddies have it. A local Rochester, NY vet offers some information on FeLV in this article.
Fluffy can only contract FeLV from other kitties. Cats that are infected will ‘shed’ the virus through saliva, waste, milk, and discharge. Kitties can give it to one another through cuddling, grooming, playing, and even by sharing dishes or litterboxes. Kittens can also get it from their mamas.
There are several things that increase Fluffy’s chances of developing FeLV. Exposure to other cats is probably the biggest one: if your kitty is an only pet and stays indoors, then her risks are minimal. (This is another reason to ground your furball.) That said, cats don’t need to have long or repeated contact with another kitty to get infected. Even a nose-boop through a screen is enough to cause transmission! Age is also a factor, as kittens have the highest risk. The disease is also more common in males, and in cats that aren’t fixed.
Fluffy may not show any symptoms in the earliest stages of FeLV. This is one reason it’s important to have your feline pal tested regularly. Symptoms may develop slowly, over the course of months or even years. Common ones include reduced appetite, weight loss, fever, skin infections, diarrhea, tumors, and dull or thinning fur. You may also notice pale or inflamed gums, eye problems, and unusual behavior. Call your vet immediately if you notice anything amiss.
It’s never good news to hear that your kitty has FeLV, but that diagnosis isn’t an immediate death sentence, either. In fact, Fluffy can live for quite a while with the disease. The average time of survival after diagnosis is 2.5 years. While there is no cure, proper care can help your furry friend stay comfortable and purring. A good diet is crucial here. Your vet may recommend giving Fluffy a bland diet, one that contains lots of white meat, such as chicken. Bring your furball to the vet regularly for checkups, and watch for signs that the disease is actively flaring up and/or progressing. Ask your vet for specific advice.
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