Category: Common Ailments
Feline immunodeficiency virus or FIV (similar to HIV or Human AIDS) is an infection that attacks the immune system of the cat. Up to 1 in 12 cats tests positive for FIV nationally. In cats that are at risk or clinically ill, the infection rate rises to as high as 15%. This percentage is higher here in Florida as I diagnose this disease at least 3 to 4 times monthly.
FIV is a lentivirus that is transmitted primarily thru bite wounds, but also may be acquired from the mother while pregnant. Unlike Feline Leukemia, the virus is not transmitted thru intimate contact such as with grooming behaviors, because the enzymes in the mouth destroy the virus just as HIV is in humans.
Clinical signs usually begin 6-8 weeks after infection and include low white blood cell counts (wbc fight infection), neurologic signs (behavior changes, dizziness, seizures) and severe sickness in general. Cats with AIDS have poor immune systems and do not fight common illnesses as normal cats would. In other words, a simple cold can kill a FIV infected kitty! Many FIV infected cats will have no specific signs of illness and can live 4-5 years without any problems. This disease, however, will eventually kill the patient as does HIV in humans.
There is no treatment or drug cocktails in veterinary medicine as there is in human medicine. There is a new vaccine, however, that was introduced in July 2002. A patient must test negative for FIV before vaccinating. There is a series of 3 vaccines initially with 1 vaccine given each year thereafter.
Any kitty that goes outside at all in Florida is at risk for FIV infection. It is transmitted primarily thru a bite wound commonly occurring during a cat fight. This is a terminal illness, but the vaccine has tested almost 100% effective in preventing the disease. As always, if anyone has any questions, feel free to call the hospital for more information.
More than half of the patients I see daily have some form of ear disease (Otitis Externa). Most of these cases are preventable with some regular ear maintenance. This month’s article will review ear disease causes and some easy prevention techniques.
Signs of ear problems include itching leading to head shaking and scratching at the area. Soon to follow can be redness, a malodorous discharge from the ear or ears and possible a head tilt.
Common causes are flea allergy, food allergy, atopy (like hay fever), mites and others. Predisposing factors include pets with floppy ears, hot humid environments (Florida), narrowed ear canals in certain breeds, pets that swim, tumors as well as others. Secondary to these conditions, the patient will develop a bacterial and/or yeast infection.
Treatment involves identifying the primary cause of the infection. Whereas fleas and atopy are the number one underlying reason in Florida for otitis, recent research has shown that food allergy is very common as a cause of treatment failure. (See the monthly article archive for further information regarding Flea Allergy, Food Allergy and Atopy) Microscopic evaluation of the ear discharge is necessary for identification of the bacterial and/or yeast involved. Once identified, topical and if necessary, oral medication is prescribed for a week or longer to clear the infection. A recheck is usually required at this time to assess treatment success.
Prevention is the best treatment, especially when it comes to ears. Pets which are predisposed to these diseases will require more regular care than others. Simply using an approved veterinary ear cleaner weekly, after baths and swimming will prevent visits to the veterinarian for treatment. We use V.E.T. Ear Cleaner exclusively because of studies which show excellent yeast and bacterial kill as well as effective gentle cleansing. I do NOT recommend alcohol, vinegar/water or most over the counter ear cleaners which tend to be irritating.
As always, if you should have any questions or concerns regarding this months health article, please feel free to call the office.
Feline Leukemia(FeLv) is one of two diseases we routinely screen for in new kittens and outdoor cats, with the other disease being Feline Immunodeficiency Virus(Fiv)or Aids. Thankfully, we are not seeing this disease too often due to diligent vaccinating and routine screening.
FeLv is caused by a C-type retrovirus or oncornavirus that has a propensity to cause cancer of lymphoid cells and bone marrow stem cells. FeLv is spread by carriers in the saliva (richest source), urine and feces. Thus biting and intimate contact (mutual grooming/oral contact) is a very common mode of transmission. FeLv may also be passed in utero (transplacental) from mother to fetus, however most kittens die at birth. Survivors may mount an immune response and overthrow the virus resulting in a cure, become a carrier (10%) or have active disease.
The primary stage of illness has varying severity and may last several weeks. One may see enlarged lymph nodes and low grade fever. Two to four weeks after infection, anemia and low platelets may be seen. In 70-90%, the patient’s immune system will overthrow the virus and fully recover. Others will become carriers and continue to worsen. In carriers, the virus will cause cancer (lymphoma, blood related cancer etc), anemia (1/3 to 1/2 of patients develop severe anemia) and immunodeficiency (simple infections can cause severe disease and/or death). The average lifespan of a FeLv carriers is 1/2 to 1 year. Cats with active disease will usually die from a common respiratory infection or “cold” due to a poor immune system caused by the virus.
Diagnosis is accurate, simple and takes 10 minutes. Currently we use the Idexx Snap test which utilizes a few drops of blood. It also screens for Fiv or Aids.
Prevention is always better than treatment. Several commercially available vaccines are available and are very effective. Two vaccines are required initially 3 weeks apart and then once yearly thereafter.
This is a very serious and lethal disease. Some pets can live fairly normal lives, but will eventually die from the virus or illness caused by the virus. Early testing and proper vaccinating is key to hopefully someday eradicating this disease.
As always, please feel free to contact the clinic if you need further information regarding Feline Leukemia.
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