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Feline Leukemia

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.

Prevention

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.

Treatment

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.

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