Leukemia in Cats: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Leukemia in Cats is the most typical form of cancer in cats, also referred to as feline leukemia. A retrovirus called the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is the main reason why cats die.

The likelihood of eradicating the virus is good if it is discovered in its early stages. In the event of a recurrence or if the virus develops into an advanced stage before being discovered, the prognosis is poor.

The second-leading cause of cat death after accidents is the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). According to estimates, 3% of cats in the US have feline leukemia, and the risk can reach 15% in sick, young, or cats who are at high risk of infection.

The good news is that, if treated promptly after becoming infected, the majority of healthy cats can fend off and even get rid of the infection.

Your veterinarian will frequently provide a standard immunization that includes the FeLV vaccine, which is readily available. The cat’s immune system is weakened by FeLV, which increases the risk of secondary infections such as lymphoma and anemia.

The infection of feline leukemia can result in a number of blood problems and may induce an immunological deficit that impairs the cat’s capacity to defend itself against subsequent illnesses.

Symptoms of Leukemia in Cats

Your cat may not show any signs in the early stages of feline leukemia, but they could be accompanied by a gradual decline in health or periods of sporadically good health.

Your cat may display signs like pale gums, a yellowish colour on the inside of its mouth and the whites of its eyes, large lymph nodes, bladder, skin, or upper respiratory infections, weight loss and/or appetite loss, an unattractive coat, advancing weakness and lethargic behaviour, persistent fever, diarrhoea, breathing problems, seizures, and reproductive issues.

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If you want your cat to grow healthy and robust, it’s imperative that you give them the best possible nourishment.

Causes of Leukemia in Cats

The majority of cats who have feline leukemia are also carriers of the disease. Saliva, nasal secretions, faeces, urine, milk from infected nursing cats, and blood from infected cats during fights are all ways that the virus can be spread. The cats pose little risk of transmitting an infection to human family members or other animals.

Common means of transmission of the virus include:

  • Grooming 
  • Fighting
  • Biting/wounds/scratches
  • Shared litter boxes
  • Mother-to-kitten transmission in utero or through nursing

Diagnosis of leukemia in cats

Your cat has to get a comprehensive checkup from your veterinarian to determine the severity of cancer. When you initially observed symptoms, what symptoms you noticed, and whether any changes have taken place will all be asked for in the sharing process.

Leukemia proteins in the blood will be found using an ELISA blood test, which will be performed. With regard to spotting early infections, this test is incredibly sensitive. FeLV may be treated in its early stages by the cat’s immune system, which may be able to combat the virus and get rid of the infection. If the results of the initial ELISA test are positive, a second test should be performed for verification.

Immunofluorescent Antibody (IFA), a further blood examination, can be required. IFA testing can identify an infection’s development. An IFA test that is positive indicates that the illness has progressed.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing is a further procedure that might be performed to look into the potential or development of FeLV.

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FeLV infection generally falls into three categories: 

  • Healthy cats with good immune systems can often fight off the infection.
  • Some cats will not be able to rid themselves of all of the infection and will continue to have a latent infection, which may or may not become active.
  • A persistently infected cat will exhibit no effective immune response to the infection.

Treatment of Feline Leukemia

Your cat will be treated by your vet in accordance with the severity of the infection if a FeLV test results in a positive result. Supportive care, including fluid therapy and nutritional therapy, may be advised by your veterinarian.

It is possible to prescribe antibiotics to treat complicated infections. Chemotherapy or antiviral medication may be suggested in extreme circumstances.

Remember that no test is ever 100 percent correct. Your cat should be retested in 30 days if ELISA testing came back negative despite the fact that it is extremely likely that it was exposed to FeLV. Your cat should be tested again in 60 days if the ELISA test is positive but the IFA test is negative.

Preventing FeLV is the best form of treatment. All cats should get a FeLV screening, according to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). A cat should be tested if it interacts with any cats who are not members of its immediate family.

FeLV screening and vaccination should be performed on every cat that spends time outside, stays in a boarding facility, or attends shows.

Recovery From Leukemia in Cats

The prognosis of your cat depends on the severity of the infection. FeLV-positive cats should have routine checkups with their veterinarian to control the disease’s stages and avoid additional infections.

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To prevent coming into contact with your cat once more, it should be kept indoors and fixed or spayed. To handle any suspected secondary infections, get in touch with your veterinarian right away.

Some tips for your cat’s quick recovery:

  • A single-cat home is the best environment for a FeLV-positive cat.
  • Feed your cat high-quality food. 
  • Give your cat vitamin supplements. 
  • Keep your cat’s nails clipped and smooth to avoid scratches.
  • Monitor your cat’s temperature, if elevated (over 102.4⁰f), contact your veterinarian.
  • Do not give your cat raw food.

Although there is no treatment for cat leukemia, your pet can still live a fulfilling life if given the right care and regular checkups with your veterinarian. Most felines who test positive for FeLV live for three years or less following infection.

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