What You Need To Know About Feline Leukemia

If you're like most people who share their lives, homes, and hearts with a cat, you naturally want your feline friend to have the best of everything. Giving a cat a good quality of life includes providing good health care, and this means keeping up on pet vaccines. One of the infectious diseases that cats are at risk for is feline leukemia (FeLV). Here's what you need to know about it. 

Feline leukemia is a viral disease that affects cats and can weaken the immune system, making them more susceptible to other infections. It is spread through saliva, nasal secretions, and blood, and it can be transmitted through bite wounds, shared food and water dishes, and shared litter boxes. Kittens and young cats are most at risk of contracting FeLV, but it can occur in cats of any age. Shelter cats or those who have been rescued from outdoor living conditions such as feral cat colonies are also at high risk of developing FeLV. 

Symptoms of FeLV can include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Pale gums
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Eye and nasal discharge
  • Persistent diarrhea or vomiting
  • Weakness or lethargy

If left untreated, FeLV can lead to serious health problems, such as anemia, cancer, and organ damage. In some cases, it can be fatal.

There is no cure for FeLV, but there are vaccines available to help protect against the virus. It is important to talk to your veterinarian about whether the FeLV vaccine is appropriate for your cat. They can help you determine the best course of action based on your cat's age, health, and risk of exposure.

In addition to vaccination, there are steps you can take to help prevent your cat from contracting FeLV:

  • Keep your cat indoors to reduce their risk of exposure to infected cats
  • Avoid letting your cat come into contact with other cats that have unknown vaccination status
  • Keep food and water dishes separate for each cat
  • Use separate litter boxes for each cat 
  • Consider having your cat tested for FeLV on a regular basis if they are at high risk of exposure

If your cat is at risk of exposure to FeLV, it is important to talk to your veterinarian about the FeLV vaccine. The vaccine is given in a series of injections and is usually given to kittens, with booster shots given annually. Contact a vet to learn more.