What Is Feline Leukemia?
Feline leukemia is a deadly viral infection in cats which results in the mortality of numerous cats
every year in the U.S. and the world. The disease itself is most commonly acquired through contact with
other cats. Transfer of saliva from an infected cat to a healthy cat is the most common route of viral infection, although
lower levels of virus particles are also found in urine and feces. Transmission occurs by licking, biting and sneezing.
Food, water dishes, and litter boxes are likely sources of infection when they are shared with an infected cat.
What Does It Do?
The virus impairs the immune system the cats similar to the AIDS virus in people. Cats lose much of their
ability to fight disease-causing bacteria, viruses and fungi.
What are the main symptoms of Feline Leukemia?
Cats with feline leukemia can exhibit symptoms of anemia, atrophy
of the thymus gland, ulcers of the mouth, skin lesions, reproductive problems such as miscarriages and
weak or dying kittens (fading kitten syndrome), chronic digestive and respiratory problems, and others symptoms.
Cats can be tested for leukemia using a simple blood test (done by your veterinarian). The most important
step in prevention is vaccination. Kittens can be vaccinated starting at 8 to 10 weeks. After the initial
vaccinations, boosters are done once yearly.
If your cat becomes infected with leukemia, there are 3 possible outcomes: Approximately 40% develop
immunity and become resistant to future infections. About 30% become latent carriers, where they are
neither fully recovered nor seriously affected. These carriers can be susceptible to the disease at some
future point, and if reactivated, they can pass the virus to their offspring. The remaining 30% are
persistently infected and, of these, 83% die within 3 years of the time of infection from leukemia or its
associated diseases. Cats can die suddenly or after suffering for prolonged periods.