Feline Immunodeficiency Virus:
What to Do When Your Cat Suffers From FIV
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) attacks the immune system of cats, and severely weakens it making them susceptible to other secondary infections.
Infected cats may appear normal for several years. Even after diagnosis and proper medical care they can live for years. But eventually the disease will reach the chronic stage where they will begin to suffer from immune deficiency.
At this point even harmless viruses, fungi, bacteria and protozoa found in the environment will cause severe illnesses in infected felines. The average survival time of an infected cat is approximately five years.
Symptoms of FIV
FIV can remain dormant in cats for years before the symptoms even begin to appear. But once they do, they’ll continue to worsen with each passing day. Be aware of the following symptoms in your cat:
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Disheveled coat
- Dental disease
- Hair loss
- Redness of the skin
- Wounds that won’t heal
What To Do If You Suspect Your Cat Has FIV
The first thing you should do if you suspect your cat may be infected is to take them to your veterinarian as soon as possible for a thorough examination. Describe to your vet every sign or symptom that you have noticed regardless of how small or minor it may seem. Also, it’s a good idea to keep your cat indoors until you have a confirmed diagnosis from the vet.
A blood test is generally used to diagnose the FIV infection. The blood samples are examined to detect the presence of antibodies to the FIV virus. After interpreting the test report the veterinarian may carry out other tests to make a final diagnosis.
If the cat is FIV-positive then it means that not only are they infected, but they can also spread the disease to other fellow cats. Therefore, it’s very important that an infected cat be kept indoors, and away from healthy cats.
Sometimes an infected mother cat can transfer FIV antibodies to her nursing kittens. Tests of these kittens may show that they’re FIV-positive now as well. Kittens usually take up to 6 months to clear the infection from their systems. So, any kitten younger than 6 months, and has showed FIV-positive results, should be tested again after 60 days.
Unfortunately, no treatment is available to rid the cat of FIV. The only way to manage it is to treat the secondary diseases they may get, and improve the quality of life of the feline. The following are some of the treatment options that veterinarians usually recommend for FIV:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Parasite control
- Immune-enhancing drugs
- Medication and treatment for secondary illnesses
- Healthy diet
- Fluid and electrolyte replacement therapy
Even though therapies for FIV itself are not available, treatments for secondary diseases are highly recommended.
If secondary illnesses and infections go untreated they may result in lethal diseases like cancer, kidney failure or other blood diseases.
Taking Care of an FIV-Infected Cat
Even though no specific anti-viral treatment is available for FIV, the following tips can help to improve the cat’s quality of life and increase their lifespan.
- Try to keep your infected cat indoors to protect him from disease-causing germs outdoors. This also ensures the safety of uninfected cats in the community.
- Schedule wellness visits for your cat every six-months. A vet will administer tests like blood analysis, urine analysis, and serum blood chemical analysis.
- Complete physical examinations will provide the current health condition of the cat, and in case of any secondary illness, proper treatment can be provided.
- Feed your cat a nutritionally balanced diet. Avoid feeding them any raw meat, eggs or unpasteurized raw milk. This will help to avoid food-borne bacterial and parasitic diseases which can be extremely dangerous to immunity-compromised cats.
- Also, make sure that your FIV-positive cat is spayed or neutered.
Preventing exposure to the virus is the only effective way to protect your cat from FIV. Even though vaccines are available, they don’t promise complete protection. Also, not all vaccinated cats remain safe from the virus. So, preventing exposure is the best option, and crucial in protecting your cat.
The FIV virus is usually transmitted among cats through the bites of an infected cat during fights. So, keep your cat indoors especially if there is an infected cat in the area to avoid getting into a fight with an FIV infected cat.
If you are going to adopt a cat, be sure take him to a vet, and have them tested for FIV before taking them home.
Human Health Concerns
The feline immunodeficiency virus caused by the FIV virus is quite similar to AIDS in humans. However, FIV is a species-specific infection, and it does not infect humans. Felines happen to be the sole victims of FIV.
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