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Feline Leukemia Virus Alert: Symptoms and Signs

Jul 8, 2008
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is an often deadly virus that compromises the immune system of cats. There is no known cure for this disease, and to date, no treatments have been clinically proven to increase the longevity of otherwise healthy infected cats.

This disease has a varied list of symptoms and signs, many of which may be common to other illnesses and conditions. FeLV is a retrovirus, which means that it is able to insert copies of its own genetic material into the cells it has infected.

Fungi, viruses, and bacteria attack felines and humans alike on a regular basis. Most of the time, a healthy cat or person will fight them off. With a compromised immune system, however, bacteria, parasites, viral and other organisms are more likely to do your cat harm.

Secondary infections and diseases will cause problems with FeLV infected cats. These secondary infections and diseases make the symptom list for this illness quite varied. FeLV infected cats have a difficult time fighting off invaders, even common bacteria.

Initial symptoms may include fever, blood disease, swollen lymph nodes, and general malaise. Some cats will experience no symptoms during the beginning stages of the disease.

FeLV infected cats are susceptible to developing leukemia as well as other forms of cancer. They often will develop anemia as well, and about 30 percent of infected cats will develop tumors. Some cats may exhibit excessive thirst and urination, which is also common to feline diabetes and other conditions.

Additional feline leukemia virus symptoms may also include depression, diarrhea, and weight loss to the point of emaciation. Some cats may maintain a persistent low grade fever. Other symptoms include chronic recurring infections, jaundice, blood in the stool, and constipation.

There are two stages of feline leukemia virus. Some cats will mount an immune response upon initial infection, and the disease will not progress to the second stage. Other cats will eventually enter the second stage.

If your cat has FeLV that has reached the second stage, the only thing you can do is to treat the secondary diseases and infections, and attempt to strengthen the immune system of your cat. Unfortunately, the disease is usually fatal.

Fortunately, if your cat is not in a high risk group, chances are limited that she will contract the disease. In fact, it's estimated that only about 2 to 3 percent of all cats are infected with FeLV. Infection rates are higher in high risk groups. The disease is transmitted through direct contact with an infected cat. As such, keeping your cat indoors and away from infected cats is a good precaution and preventive measure.
About the Author
Author Kurt Schmitt writes about cat illnesses and provides a complete feline leukemia virus symptoms list including information on pregnant cats and kittens.
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