Feline Leukemia Symptoms
Feline leukemia is a white blood cell malignancy that affects cats, caused by a retrovirus. Feline leukemia virus is the major viral killer of cats. Feline leukemia is contagious in cats because the virus is shed in the saliva, nasal secretions, urine, tears, blood and feces. Cats often pass the virus to each other during social grooming and while sharing litter boxes. Fighting is a common way that outdoor acquire feline leukemia virus. Pregnant cats pass the virus to their unborn kittens. Scientists think that wild cat populations, specifically some lynx, lion and cheetah populations, carry the virus. People however cannot get feline leukemia, nor is the virus passed through non-biological material. Direct contact between infected cats is needed to spread the virus. Dogs are not susceptible to the virus.
Feline leukemia viral infection is often asymptomatic for a period. This is why an annual check-up for cats that includes the blood test for the feline leukemia virus is a good preventive measure. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, up to one in 12 American cats tests positive for the virus. This makes every cat in the country at high risk for feline leukemia. Even if the cat received the vaccine for feline leukemia, performing the blood test annually lets the owner know whether the cat was infected; no vaccine is 100 percent effective.
Feline Leukemia Symptoms
Prevention is the best way to combat feline leukemia. Preventive measures include keeping the cat as a strictly indoor pet, spaying or neutering it and having annual veterinary examinations. The check-up should include the blood test and scheduled vaccinations for the feline leukemia virus, as well as urinalysis and a complete blood count and blood chemistry. In addition, avoiding a raw food diet is preferred; in the event a cat becomes infected with the virus but does not yet show feline leukemia symptoms or has not yet shown a positive blood test, the cat is susceptible to infection by microorganisms present in the raw food.
There are several drugs for treating feline leukemia virus. These include zidovudine, feline interferon-omega, acemannon, didanosine, levamisole and suramin. Of these, zidovudine and feline interferon-omega are the most effective.
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