Feline Leukemia in Pasadena, CA: What it is and How to Protect Your Pet

If your cat has been diagnosed with Feline Leukemia or you have heard of this disease and want to make sure that your cat doesn’t get it, you need to know what Feline Leukemia is and how you can protect your cat from getting it. Feline Leukemia can be very communicable, and you will want to be sure that any cat that you own which has been diagnosed is kept away from other cats in your home. It is always best to protect your cat with a vaccination, but this is not always possible for older cats that have already been infected.

feline leukemia in pasadena, ca

What is Feline Leukemia?

Feline Leukemia Virus is the leading cause of death in cats. This disease kills most diagnosed cats within three years of diagnosis. This doesn’t have to be the outcome as some cats are able to eliminate the virus on their own or resist infection, but cats showing symptoms of the disease don’t normally live a full lifespan.

Feline Leukemia is very transmissible between cats, but it can’t be caught by humans. FeLV is passed through saliva, blood, and can also be transmitted through urine and feces. The virus doesn’t live for long outside of the host but grooming and catfights can make it easy for cats to pass this disease around amongst one another.

Which Cats Are Likely to Get Leukemia?

Cats that are strays or cats that haven’t been vaccinated are the most likely to contract this disease. Older cats are also more susceptible than young cats with healthy immune systems. Indoor-only cats are significantly less likely to contract the disease and will likely only be exposed if a stray or unvaccinated cat with the disease is brought into the home.

Multi-cat households and unvaccinated indoor/outdoor cats are the most likely to get this disease and spread it to the rest of the pets in the house. The incidence of FeLV in the US is much reduced compared to 25 years ago due to the availability of the vaccine and the common practice of vacating pets against the disease.

Symptoms of Feline Leukemia

The symptoms of this disease can be hard to recognize at first. They can look like more innocuous illnesses or conditions and be misdiagnosed as something minor. Later stages of the disease are easier to identify as the symptoms become clearer.

  • Pale gums
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Yellowing of the whites of the eyes and in the mouth
  • Breathing trouble
  • Reproductive issues
  • Stomatitis
  • Poor coat condition
  • Weakness and lethargy

Most cats will start out showing signs of weakness, a rough coat, and reduced appetite. Veterinarians will typically test for feline leukemia at this point unless they know that your cat has been vaccinated. You should make sure that you don’t ignore even the early symptoms of this serious disease. The sooner that your cat starts treatment for FeLV, the more likely they are to have the full life expectancy for cats with this condition.

What is the Treatment for Feline Leukemia?

Feline Leukemia can’t be cured. This disease can only be managed through treatment of the symptoms of the condition. Most veterinarians will recommend that your cat have regular blood tests and that they are brought in for regular exams to try and track changes in their overall health. All FeLV cats will also need to be spayed or neutered.

Secondary infections are common in cats with FeLV, and your cat will often need more help to recover from this kind of health challenge than a cat that doesn’t have FeLV. Cancer can be a secondary result of the immune abnormalities of cats in the advanced stages of the disease. While it can be possible to provide chemotherapy treatment to some cats in the advanced stages of FeLV, bone cancers or lymphomas usually can’t be treated.

Protecting Your Cat from Feline Leukemia

If you are worried that your cat might contract FeLV, you should make sure to vaccinate them as soon as possible. Cats that test positive can’t be vaccinated, but cats that haven’t contracted the disease can be vaccinated.  Keeping your cat indoors can also make a big difference in the prevention of this disease. If you have taken in a cat that has been diagnosed with the condition, you will need to keep them separated from the other cats in your house.

You can test cats that are over eight weeks of age. You should always test any cat that you are thinking of moving into your home to make sure that they aren’t carrying the disease. If you take in a stray or you have a cat that is coming onto your property to eat with your other cats, you should have them tested if possible. This can prevent transmission of the disease to the pets that you already have in your home.

Feline Leukemia is a Serious Disease That Should be Prevented

If you didn’t know that this disease could cause such a risk to your cat’s health before you read this article, you now know how important it is to vaccinate for it and to test for it when you get a new cat. Making sure that you remove infected cats from contact with your other cats is also an important step to take for the well-being of the whole group. You can care for a cat with Feline Leukemia by providing additional support for illnesses and trying to keep them from getting cold or dehydrated but they will be unlikely to live a full and normal lifespan.

FeLV is very infectious, but it can be prevented if you take the right steps. Caring for your cats includes vaccinating them against Feline Leukemia and making sure to look for the early warning signs of this disease if unvaccinated pets.

The veterinarians at Altadena Pet Hospital are here for your cat’s needs. Call us at (626) 798-0738 or book an appointment online!