FIV-Feline Immunodeficiency Virus: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

Cat with FIV outside cat carrier

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Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is something you might have heard mentioned a lot, but what do you really need to know about the disease? And how can you protect your cat from it?

Let’s break down the basics of FIV.

What Is FIV?

Cat at vets

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FIV is an infectious disease found in cats that’s often compared to the HIV virus found in humans. It weakens the immune system of the infected cat and makes them susceptible to infections and diseases that do not normally attack healthy felines.

The virus travels to the lymph nodes where it attacks the T cells, which are a type of white blood cells responsible for maintaining the body’s immunity against bacterial, viral, and fungal attacks.

The virus can then go into a period of hibernation which may last for years. The infected cat appears outwardly normal but is infected all the same. Over a period of time, signs and symptoms appear.

There is no antiviral cure for the disease.

Based on research by the Cornell Feline Health Center, between 1.5-3% of cats in the United States carry the virus.

How Is FIV Diagnosed And What Are The Symptoms?

FIV is usually diagnosed through blood tests. These tests are designed to highlight any antibodies and need to be carried out by a vet.

Unfortunately, cats might not show symptoms for a number of years after any initial infection. But some common symptoms to look out for include:

  • weight loss
  • lowered appetite
  • pain while chewing
  • fever
  • larger than usual lymph nodes
  • diarrhea
  • eye or nose discharge
  • skin, bladder, or kidney infections
  • seizures
  • sleep disorders

These symptoms can appear with other conditions, too. If in doubt, consult your vet.

Is FIV A Communicable Disease?

Cat at vets

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According to the ASPCA, FIV is usually spread via two ways: Either through bite wounds that might occur outside during a fight, or from a mother cat to her kittens.

But don’t worry too much. The virus is not commonly spread through the shared use of litter boxes and food bowls, and it cannot be passed from feline to human.

How Can I Keep My Cat Safe From FIV?

First of all, take the ASPCA’s advice and keep your cat indoors. This avoids the chance of your cat having a run-in with a cat carrying the virus. If you must bring your cat outdoors, use a harness and leash.

Also, if you need to board your cat for any period of time, make sure all the other cats have been tested and passed negative for FIV.

Likewise, if you’re adding a new kitty to your clowder, make sure they’re tested before bringing them home.

How Is FIV Treated?

Cat at vets

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Due to the nature of FIV, most treatment courses are designed to target secondary ailments that might show up.

Medication can be prescribed to deal with any infections that manifest; electrolyte replacement therapy can also be an option. Your vet might also suggest switching to a healthier, more nutritious diet plan.

In certain cases, immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory medicine might be prescribed, along with measures to deal with any parasites, which can be especially prevalent in raw food diets.

Should I Refrain From Adopting A Cat With FIV?

Absolutely not!

While there is no cure for FIV, with the right precautions, FIV positive cats can live happy lives. So definitely don’t overlook that FIV positive kitty looking for their forever home.

Have you ever adopted an FIV positive cat? What would you say to someone considering bringing one home? Let us know in the comments below!