One of my favorite patients came into the clinic today, Dr. Jones. He is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) positive or infected with FIV. Many misconceptions exist about the disease often making it challenging for them to be adopted.
Dr. Jones was left on the street when his former owners moved. Our client adopted Dr. Jones, lucky him! Pet parents acquire cats in many different ways. There are FIV positive cats that end up in shelters and in rescues. Don’t overlook these guys as they have lots of love to give.
Being informed is a great start to helping pet parents provide the best care for cats with FIV while minimizing the risk of spreading the disease. Here are some of the things you need to know.
What is FIV?
FIV attacks the immune system, which makes the cat susceptible to other infections. A cat that is FIV positive may appear normal for years. With a compromised immune system, normally harmless bacteria, viruses, and other potential infectious agents cause severe illness.
The clinical signs and illnesses associated with FIV can be varied and non-specific. Infected cats don’t always show immediate signs of disease. When the immune system is weak from an active FIV infection, cats often suffer from secondary infections that can be treatable. Other common associated diseases include abnormalities with the eyes, kidney and oral diseases disease, and neurologic issues.
Transmission of FIV
FIV is most commonly spread through bite wounds typically inflicted by intact males fighting over territory, food or females. Cats who are spayed or neutered they are less likely to have territorial fights.
FIV is not spread by casual contact. Cats who share the same household and have a stable social hierarchy that do not fight are at little risk of acquiring FIV.
There is no cure for FIV. But testing positive for FIV is NOT a death sentence for your cat. Regular veterinary care is an important part of keeping your cat healthy for the long term. Wellness exams every six months is the best interval for FIV-infected cats.
These exams allow for a detailed look into all body systems including bloodwork, urinalysis, and accurate weight check. Weight loss is often one of the first indicators of compromised health.
Alertness and detailed monitoring of overall health including behavior of cats infected with FIV is even more important than it is for uninfected cats. Let your veterinarian know of any changes to your cats health immediately.
FIV prevention includes minimizing the risk of transmission. Limiting exposure to hazardous situations or to other cats you don’t know, as well as speaking with your veterinarian about if vaccination is appropriate are a good start to prevention.
Here are some top reminders to help keep your FIV infected as healthy as possible:
- FIV-infected cats should be indoor only for the remainder of their lives.
- Spay or Neuter. These two preventative measures decrease the opportunity of spreading the FIV to others while reducing their exposure to other infectious agents.
- A nutritionally complete and balanced diet is a must for these cats. Eliminate raw foods like eggs or meat or unpasteurized dairy products to avoid the risk of food-borne pathogens.
- Regular veterinary check-ups, twice a year will help keep on top of changes such as weight loss, and routine annual blood work.
Approximately 3.4 million cats enter shelters each year. About 1.4 million of these cats are euthanized. FIV diagnosis should not preclude you from adopting one of these cats. Consider welcoming an FIV positive cat into your home.
Happy Pet Parenting,