Feline leukemia is caused by feline leukemia virus, but depending on the sub-type of virus present, it can cause diseases other than leukemia, such as tumors, lymphoma (the most common FeLV-associated cancer) and other abnormal growths, and least commonly, anemia. The virus suppresses the immune system and as a result, infected cats may show various clinical signs, such as recurring or persistent infections, abscesses, inflammation of the gums and other tissues of the mouth, fever and lethargy. Kittens are most susceptible to the virus when exposed, but by six to eight months of age, the immune system matures and it becomes “harder” to become infected. The virus is transmitted through saliva and blood, therefore grooming, nose to nose contact, shared food and water bowls, and bites are common modes of transmission. An infected queen can infect kittens through the placenta, milk or saliva.
In the early stages of infection, the virus enters the tonsils, then lymph nodes, entering the circulation. This process takes about a month until cats will have the virus detectable in the blood stream. There are several testing methods available to you through your veterinarian. If you suspect your cat has been exposed, you’ll have to wait about one month before testing. Later the virus moves into bone marrow cells, and this takes six to eight weeks after the initial infection. There is a latent form of infection in which cats are healthy, but the virus can reactivate at any point in its lifetime. Then, of course, there are cats that always have the virus in an active stage and more than 50 percent of these cats will succumb to related diseases within two to three years after infection.
It is recommended that all kittens be vaccinated against FeLV, as feline leukemia is almost entirely preventable with two kitten vaccines and a booster one year later. Cats that go outdoors and may have contact with other cats should be vaccinated. Adult cats can be tested prior to vaccination, but vaccinating a positive cat will not change the progression of disease, nor make it less likely for it to infect other cats. Vaccination is recommended for multi-cat households where new cats are frequently introduced, or in households with a FeLV-positive cat. New cats should be tested prior to introduction to a FeLV-negative cat.
For clinic information and appointments, please call (559) 741-1121 or (559)741-0492.
Valley Oak SPCA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, no-kill rescue that operates solely on donations and contributions from our local community. To make an online donation or submit a volunteer application, please visit our website, www.vospca.org.
Valley Oak SPCA Adoption Center Hours
Monday, Thursday, Friday: 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sunday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
Valley Oak SPCA Low-Cost Spay & Neuter Clinic:
9405 West Goshen Avenue,
Visalia, CA 93291
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