Feline Immunodeficiency Virus: All You Need to Know

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is among one of the most common as well as major infectious diseases of cats. In infected cats, FIV weakens the immune system, leaving the cat prone to other infections. Though there is no cure for FIV, current research suggests that cats with FIV can have long life spans.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus: All You Need to Know - KittyNook Cat Company

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is among the most common as well as major infectious diseases in cats. In infected cats, FIV weakens the immune system, leaving the cat prone to other infections. Though there is no cure for FIV, current research suggests that cats with FIV can have long life spans if they do not also have Feline Leukemia Virus (FLV). Although cats with FIV might appear normal for several years, they will be affected by immune system deficiency at some point. This means that ordinarily harmless microorganisms, viruses, bacteria, and fungi in the environment can cause severe ailments.

How Does FIV Transmission Happen?

tuxedo cat in a wooden patio

The primary transmission vehicle for FIV has bitten injuries from an infected cat. Casual, non-aggressive encounters, such as sharing water bowls or everyday grooming, do not seem to be how the virus spreads. Therefore, cats in places in secure social structures where housemates do not fight are at little risk of getting infected with FIV. 

An important thing to know is that sexual contact is not how FIV spreads among cats. Sporadic instances exist where an infected mama cat may transmit the virus to her offspring. And if the mom becomes infected with FIV during pregnancy, the risk of transmission increases.

Because FIV is transmitted via deep bite wounds, un-neutered male cats with access outdoor have the most significant risk of FIV infection. This is because they are likely to fight with other cats. There is presently no vaccination available in The US and Canada to protect against FIV, so you should limit contact with cats that might be infected by keeping your cats indoors as well as checking your cats within the home.

Three Phases of FIV Infection 

three tabby cats looking at the camera

There are three phases of FIV infection in cats: acute, asymptomatic (or latent), and progressive.

The acute phase can typically happen 1-3 months after the initial infection. During this time, the virus is carried to lymph nodes, where it reproduces in white blood cells called T-lymphocytes. The infection then spreads to other lymph nodes throughout the body, resulting in a swollen lymph node frequently accompanied by fever, lethargy, and lack of appetite. This phase of infection may be extremely mild and is commonly attributed to other causes of the madness.

Following the acute phase, the infected cat will enter an asymptomatic stage, which may last for months to multiple years. Throughout this time, the infection replicates gradually within the cells of the body's immune system, while the cat will not show any outside indications of ailment. Some cats will stay in this phase and never ever progress to the progressive stage. Infected cats usually display abnormalities in their blood work, such as lower leukocyte levels or high blood proteins.

Most disease-related FIV is not from the virus but from infections or troubles with the body's immune system. As the infection spreads out with the body's immune system, cats will enter an immuno-compromised state during which secondary infections might happen. This is the progressive phase that causes immunodeficiency syndrome. Cats might suffer from recurrent infections, such as skin, eyes, urinary tract, or upper respiratory system infections. 

Gingivostomatitis, an inflammation of the gum and other severe oral diseases, is also prevalent in cats infected with FIV. The extent of these illnesses can vary substantially. Research also shows that they are far more likely to develop cancer than healthy cats. Weight loss, seizures, behavior changes, and neurological conditions are all possible. Still, once a cat contracts cancer or other significant infections, survival time is usually no more than a few months.

Treatment and Management of FIV

tortoiseshell cat in the vet

Unfortunately, there is presently no definitive cure for FIV. However, it is essential to understand that while it is difficult to predict the survival of FIV-positive cats, they can still have a good quality of life and can live several years if appropriately managed.

For a cat diagnosed with FIV, the objectives are to reduce the threat of secondary infections and forestall the spread of FIV to other cats. Both goals are best met by keeping cats indoors and separated from other pet cats. Spaying and neutering will significantly reduce the risk of other cats contracting the virus. Cats with FIV need to be fed a well-balanced diet with vitamins and supplements. Raw feeding should also be avoided to lessen the threat of food-borne microbial and parasitic infections. Regular checkups should be arranged at least every six months. 

Care and monitoring of FIV-infected cats are much more critical than uninfected cats.

Unfortunately, most FIV-infected cats are not diagnosed until they have lived with other cats for years. In such situations, all cats in the home must be evaluated. Ideally, all infected cats ought to be separated from the non-infected cat. Nevertheless, it is essential to note that because FIV is mainly passed through bite injuries, transmission is less likely to happen in homes with steady social structures (i.e., families where cats do not fight).

Before entering the household, any new cat or kitten must be immunized against other transmittable agents. In most environments, the virus will not live for more than a couple of hours. Nonetheless, FIV-infected cats are often a host of contagious diseases that may pose some danger to a newcomer. For these reasons, prudence dictates a thorough cleansing and sanitation of food bowls, bedding litter boxes, and toys to minimize the mode of transmission of FIV and other infections. A diluted bleach (4 ounces of bleach in 1 gallon of water) makes a superb disinfectant. Vacuuming rugs and mopping floors with a suitable cleanser are also recommended.

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Ella @ Tue, Aug 16, 22

Is it possible for an inside only adult spayed female cat to contract FIV? What would the circumstances be?