Feline leukemia is a high-mortality disease caused by the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). FeLV produces immunosuppression, meaning the body is unable to fight off disease, which can then lead to other disease or infections such as respiratory or gastro-intestinal disease. Cats that survive these initial diseases may later develop some form of cancer, hence the name feline leukemia. The disease is transmitted by direct contact with infected cats or with contaminated food dishes or litter boxes.

ALL CATS are at risk

All it takes to spread feline leukemia is contact with bodily fluids from an infected animal. Any of these situations could put your cat or kitten at risk:

  • ┬áSocial Grooming
  • Common litter boxes
  • Shared food and water bowls
  • Bite wounds

Symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Slow but progressive weight loss, followed by severe wasting late in the disease process
  • Poor coat condition
  • Pale gums and other mucus membranes
  • Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and mouth (stomatitis)
  • Infections of the skin, urinary bladder, and upper respiratory tract
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Seizures, behavior changes, and other neurological disorders
  • A variety of eye condition

Feline Leukemia is a serious but preventable disease. Unfortunately, many FeLV infected cats are not diagnosed until after they have lived with other cats. It is important when adopting any cat to have a Feline Leukemia test done, particularly if they have not been previously tested or if they have not been routinely vaccinated. A small amount of blood is taken and the test is run at the hospital. A FeLV vaccination is available and can be given to kittens at their 10-12 week examination and a follow up booster at 14-16 weeks. It is then important to get the Feline Leukemia vaccination routinely to prevent this serious disease.

-Meghan Burnell, AS
Veterinary Technician