Is Feline Leukemia Contagious?
Feline leukemia is one of the most common fatal diseases experienced by cats. It is a form of blood cancer known as “lymphocytes“. Primarily, this malignant cat ailment is caused by the so called feline leukemia virus (FeLV). FeLV is a lethal, infectious retrovirus that affects your felines’ immune system which becomes leaves them susceptible to additional forms of cancers and other associated diseases. This kind of virus can be transmitted between infected cats when there is transfer or sharing of saliva or nasal secretions. Although FeLV is similar to the viruses that are responsible for feline immunodeficiency diseases (FIV) and human acquired immune deficiency syndrome, studies have shown that FeLV cannot be transferred on to other animals or to humans. They can only be passed on to other cats.
How do cats get feline leukemia?
Cats which are infected with FeLV can be considered as sources of infection. The virus is shared in extremely high quantities in saliva and nasal secretions. It can also be acquired from urine, feces, and milk from infected cats. Transferring of the virus from cat-to-cat may occur during mutual grooming, sharing of litter boxes and feeding dishes, and from a bite wound. Moreover, transmission of the virus can take place from an infected feline mother to her kittens, either before they are born or while they are nurtured. Thus, this disease is considered to be contagious.
Signs and Symptoms of Feline Leukemia
There are three forms of feline leukemia, namely chest, abdominal, and multi-centric. The signs that can be seen in your cats depend on the lymph nodes and organs involved.
For those felines which are suffering from chest leukemia, they might experience symptoms similar to:
- Difficulties in breathing
- Enlargement of chest lymph nodes
- Fluid accumulation in the chest
- Compressed windpipe and esophagus
If your cats are suffering abdominal leukemia, the malignant cells may possibly be present in the liver, intestines, spleen, kidney, and lymph nodes. Thus, your felines may experience symptoms like:
Whenever your feline friends are experiencing multi-centric lymphoma, they might be suffering the following:
- Personality changes
- Poor coat condition
- Variety of eye conditions
- Excessive drinking and urinating
- Formation of tumor in other organs
- Enlargement of lymph nodes under the skin
- Whitening of the gums and other mucus membranes
- Decrease in the number of platelets
- Neurological diseases (which include seizures, blindness, ataxia or loss of balance, and hind paralysis
Progression of Feline Leukemia
There are several stages on how the virus deteriorates cats’ body.
- The virus replicates in the lymphatic tissue in the oral cavity.
- Whenever the immune system fails to stop the problem at this stage, the virus spreads to white blood cells that circulate the body.
- White blood cells spread the virus to lymph nodes in the rest of the body. Generally, cats make antibodies at this stage about 60 to 80 percent to prevent further replication of the virus.
- If these antibodies are not made, the virus spreads through the circulation to the bone marrow where it will remain for the rest of the cats’ life.
- White blood cells and platelets that are typically made in the bone marrow pick up this virus and bring it back into the circulation.
- The virus then is spread to the salivary glands, tear glands, and the bladder and at this stage, the virus can be shared and infect other cats.
How common is feline leukemia?
Feline leukemia is very common to cats nowadays. It has been thought to be the number one cat killer. However, statistics may vary depending on the area. For instance, in West Virginia, it is said that 23% of the cat population is being infected by FeLV. It is also recorded that 12% of Ohio’s cat population has contracted by this retrovirus.
How long can a cat live with feline leukemia?
There is no accurate timeline for how long a cat with feline leukemia can survive. Normally, strong cats with feline leukemia can survive longer than those weak ones since their immune system deteriorates slower than those felines which have poor immune systems. Furthermore, weaker cats tend to run through the illness quicker and experience more suffering during the latter phases. Kittens which are exposed to feline leukemia and are younger than eight months tend to have poor immune systems which makes them experience faster deterioration. Studies also show that cats that tend to have this disease can survive for more than 4 years.
Feline Leukemia Shots
Your cats’ immune system plays a vital role in maintaining your cats’ health. One of its main and important functions is to protect cats’ bodies against diseases and infection. Diseases and infections are caused by foreign invaders similar to bacteria, viruses, and a host of other microbes and parasites that attack the body and cause diseases like feline leukemia. That is why feline leukemia vaccinations should be given in order to prepare the body’s immune system against foreign invasion by particular disease-causing germs. However, the feline leukemia vaccine effectiveness is not 100%. There is risk when a vaccinated cat is housed with an infected cat. It is suggested that cats that are FeLV-positive should not be housed with FeLV-negative cats, even those which have been vaccinated. Also, it is possible that there is a small chance that reactions may develop as a result of vaccination. Mild reactions might occur like a low grade fever, decreased appetite and activity, sneezing at about four to seven days after administration of an intranasal vaccine, and discomfort at the area where the vaccine was injected.
Feline Leukemia Treatment
There is no treatment for feline leukemia itself. However, there are ways on how to prevent the malignant cells from deteriorating your cats’ bodies rapidly. These involve keeping your cat as healthy as possible, feeding them nutritious cat foods and implementing a well-balanced diet. Another alternative treatment includes chemotherapy for cats, surgery and radiation. However, some cancer diseases can be treated depending on what stage the cancer is. That is why if you have noticed several feline leukemia symptoms, you have to immediately bring your cats to a veterinarian for further medications. The best way to keep your cat from contracting this deadly disease is to keep them indoors. By limiting their exposure to other cats, you seriously reduce their risk of infection.