Feline Retro Viruses

Image of cat.

Retro is a word usually bringing warm and fuzzy feelings of nostalgia. But for the more than 80 million cats living in North America, the word retro is anything but warm and fuzzy. Retroviruses like Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) can be devastating to your cat. More frightening, many cat owners are unaware of these two significant and very deadly feline diseases. Hidden from the body's defenses, retroviruses can remain dormant for months or even years. These viruses have RNA as their genetic material but share an ability to switch RNA into DNA, inserting DNA into the host's genome. Other retroviruses include HIV, the cause of human AIDS.

Like the AIDS virus, FeLV and FIV hinder the host's immune system, making the cat more susceptible to common infections. Feline Leukemia is associated with more illnesses and deaths of cats than any other infectious agent. Although not actually a cancer, it can cause several types of cancer in your cat. FeLV is considered a "social contact" disease generally spread through intimate contact between cats, such as grooming or sharing water bowls. Pregnant or nursing cats can pass the virus on to their kittens as well. Studies estimate the prevalence of FeLV in the United States at two to three percent of the cat population, meaning that 1.5 to 2.5 million cats carry and spread the virus.

The FIV virus is less prevalent but still may infect almost one million cats in North America. Typically spread by fighting, FIV virus is caused by bite wounds between unfriendly cats. However, It should be noted that neither disease is spread from cats to people.
Cats carrying either of these viruses may not show any signs of illness. In fact, due to the ability of these viruses to hide in the cat's cells, many cats can go years without any apparent symptoms. This can be a problem when new cats are introduced into the household, or if your cat ventures from home for a few days. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) recommends testing cats routinely. Testing is considered the mainstay of preventing transmission of both diseases. Any sick cat should be tested, regardless of any negative results from previous testing.

Fortunately, there is good news. First, both of these viruses can't survive outside the body for long periods of time, making transmission from the environment unlikely. Second, it is possible for cats with either disease to live for many years. Finally, in some cases, vaccinations can help to prevent the spread of these diseases. Previous vaccine recommendations have reduced the incidence of FeLV and current guidelines promote testing and wellness protocols over indiscriminate vaccination. Although the AAFP highly recommends testing cats for both diseases prior to vaccination, the retrovirus vaccines should only be used in cats that are at risk for FeLV or FIV. Your veterinarian will help you make the right decision about the need to vaccinate your feline friend. You can see all the guidelines at www.catvets.com.

Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline AIDS (FIV)

  • Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline AIDS (FIV) are two very serious diseases for cats.
  • Both diseases disrupt the immune system, allowing other infections and even cancers to harm your cat.
  • These viruses can hide in your cat's cells and avoid detection for months or years. Your cat may not ever show symptoms or signs.
  • About 3-4 million cats, or 2-3% of the cat population in North America are infected with one or both of these diseases.
  • FeLV is spread through mutual grooming and shared food/water bowls. It is most often seen in multi-cat households.
  • FIV is most often spread through fighting and therefore is more likely to occur among outdoor cats.
  • Neither disease can be transmitted to people. These viruses are related to the human AIDS virus, but they won't infect you.
  • All cats should be tested for both diseases.
  • Talk with your veterinariary staff about how to keep your cat safe and how to avoid risk factors.
No form settings found. Please configure it.

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

7:00

Varies

Tuesday:

7:00

Varies

Wednesday:

7:00

Varies

Thursday:

7:00

Varies

Friday:

7:00

Varies

Saturday:

Closed

Closed

Sunday:

Closed

Closed

Location

Find us on the map

Testimonial

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "Dr. Savell has always gone above and beyond for the care of our family's pets for several years."
    John Doe Newport News, VA

Featured Articles

Read about interesting topics

  • Skunks

    Home and Veterinary Care for Pet Skunks If you're an adventurous pet owner, you may love exotic animals such as skunks. You'll be happy to learn that skunks can indeed make excellent domestic pets, but only if they receive the proper care to enjoy a happy, healthy life. Your veterinary team can help ...

    Read More
  • Sugar Gliders

    Thinking of getting a sugar glider? These tiny marsupials are energetic and friendly, making them popular choices as pets. Though they weigh less than a half-pound, they're more closely related to kangaroos than they are flying squirrels. If you think a sugar glider would make an ideal pet for your family, ...

    Read More
  • Flying Squirrels

    Much like sugar gliders, flying squirrels make affectionate pets when purchased young and raised by their owner. Unlike sugar gliders, however, flying squirrels are rodents that need veterinary care specific to the species. Your veterinary team can help with the care and treatment of flying squirrels. ...

    Read More
  • Rats

    Did you know rats make surprisingly affectionate pets? If you're thinking of bringing home a pet rat, here's what you need to know. Health Rats that are bred especially as pets are safe to keep and should be free of disease. But common conditions may affect your rats from time to time. Your veterinarian ...

    Read More
  • Chinchillas

    Chinchillas are playful, loveable, and amusing pets. If you want yours to remain in your family for long, you should ensure that it has a good diet. Chinchillas require a lot of attention due to their playful nature; therefore, it is best to have supervised playtime with yours if you want to create a ...

    Read More
  • Fennec Foxes

    Fennec Fox Care Guide With oversized ears and mischievous faces, fennec foxes are cute as can be. But these exotic pets require a lot of care to stay healthy and happy. Health At just three pounds, fennec foxes are the smallest member of the fox family. Native to the Sahara desert, fennec foxes are ...

    Read More
  • Guinea Pigs

    Curious and inquisitive by nature, guinea pigs make great pets. These little bundles of fur are quite social and enjoy spending time with the people who handle, feed, and groom them. As a pet, guinea pigs are relatively low maintenance, rarely aggressive, and fun to own. How to Care Guinea pigs are playful, ...

    Read More
  • Prairie Dogs

    Prairie dogs are cute, affable creatures. But before taking one on as a pet, check your local laws. In some states, such as Colorado, it's illegal to keep prairie dogs as pets. Mostly, this is because they may spread monkeypox. If you live in a state that welcomes pet prairie dogs, be sure to buy from ...

    Read More
  • Gerbils

    Gerbils are great little pets for pet owners who don't have room for a dog or cat. They're friendly and fun to watch, but they do take a moderate level of care and investment. If you're thinking of getting a gerbil, here's what you'll need to know to keep him happy and healthy, including giving him a ...

    Read More
  • Hedgehogs

    Shy animals that roll into a ball when scared, hedgehogs are covered with spiky quills. They're small, clean, and fun to watch so they're quite popular as pets. Even so, these little guys need lots of activity to stay healthy. Health Hedgehogs can have health problems, including dental diseases, skin ...

    Read More

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for more articles