Cat AIDS symptoms and treatment
According to North American veterinary statistics, 1 in 12 cats can test positive for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Cat AIDS is a leading cause of disease in cats worldwide. There is no easy treatment or cure for feline AIDS, and in the early stages of the disease, feline AIDS symptoms may be difficult to detect.
Feline AIDS usually spreads through contact with the saliva of an infected cat. In rare cases, a mother cat may transmit the disease to her unborn kittens. FIV is fatal to cats, but is not contagious to humans. Any outdoor cat, or one who comes in contact with strays or other cats, is at risk for contracting feline immunodeficiency virus. The virus enters the bloodstream, usually through a bite wound, and attacks the cat's immune system. As the immune system weakens, the cat is more susceptible to infections and other illness. Eventually, the cat becomes too sick to fight disease, and dies.
Signs and Symptoms of Feline AIDS
Cats infected with FIV may appear healthy for up to six years. In the early stages, symptoms of FIV are not always obvious, and often don't appear at all. Early signs and symptoms of feline AIDS can include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Loss of appetite
As the disease progresses, symptoms become more severe. Later signs and symptoms of FIV may include:
- Loss of weight
- Dull or sparse coat
- Sores in and around the mouth
- Sores or lesions around the eyes
- Chronic infections
Treatment and Prevention of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
Cat AIDS first appeared in 1986, and quickly spread throughout the domestic cat population. About 11 percent of cats worldwide have FIV. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a treatment aid known as the lymphocyte T-cell immune modulator, which helps boost the white blood cells of infected animals. However, the treatment is new, and expensive. The best form of treatment for feline AIDS is prevention:
- Vaccinate outdoor cats, or indoor cats who may get outside.
- If introducing a new cat or kitten to the household, have the newcomer checked by a vet.
- Keep aggressive cats isolated from other cats.
- Vaccinate any cat who is also at risk for feline leukemia.
- Keep a sick cat indoors. The virus transmits more easily to cats that are unhealthy.
- If the cat has a bite wound or an injury, have a vet run a test for feline AIDS.
- If boarding or traveling with the cat, be sure the FIV vaccination is up to date.
- If the cat has feline AIDS, prevent the spread of the virus by isolating the cat from others.
To test a cat for feline immunodeficiency virus, the vet will check the cat's history and risk factors, look for any visible signs of cat AIDS and take a blood sample. The blood test can't identify the virus, but determines whether the FIV antibody is present in the cat's bloodstream. Antibodies are chemical structures that try to neutralize or fight the virus.
Some tests may return a false positive. Cats who have been vaccinated, or kittens that may have ingested antibodies from the mother's milk, can test positive even if they don't have the virus. Vaccination is the best form of FIV prevention. With proper care, a cat can live a long and healthy life.
By M.J. Holliday