Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cairns Cats which at risk of Feline AIDS virus (FIV)

Feline AIDS virus (FIV) in cats
Feline Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), the cause of Feline AIDS is a significant problem in outdoor cats worldwide.  The deadly virus has many similarities to HIV, the cause of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in people, but there is no risk that humans will catch feline AIDS.  FIV is spread a little more easily than HIV: cats are often infected by bites, grooming as well as sexual activity as FIV is present in significant amounts in saliva, unlike HIV.
Infection prevalence of FIV in Cairns Cats
FIV is surprisingly common in outdoor cats: while it only affects 2-3% of domestic cats worldwide, when tests are done on at-risk cats the incidence of infection can be 15-25%.  I estimate the prevalence of FeLV infection in all outdoor Cairns cats to be around 10%, but no formal survey has been done.  Vets tend to only test when they already suspect infection in at risk cats.  The at risk cats include:
  • outdoor cats
  • Stray cats
  • cats with bite wounds
  • cats exposed to infected animals
  • Sick cats
Preventing FIV infection in cats
The good news about Feline AIDS Virus is that it is largely preventable by keeping your cat inside where it can't be exposed to infected cats: and if your cat does go outside there is an excellent vaccine available from your vet. 
Because this virus requires close contact, only outdoor cats (or partly outdoors: eg only out during the daytime, or "never leaves the yard"... Remember other cats will roam into your yard and attack your cat!  Its amazing how many cats show up at vet clinics with abscesses from cat fights and are described as indoor cats!) or those in contact with other cats need vaccination.
Cairns cat vaccination guidelines.
If your cat is indoors but boards at a cattery, it won't need FIV vaccine, just the normal F3 or F4 cat vaccine for the highly contagious Cat Flu and Feline enteritis infections.  All cats should be vaccinated for these diseases as they are easily spread and cannot be easily treated.
There is a similar infection called Feline Leukemia virus (FeLV): both these diseases are caused my retroviruses and there is no cure.  The risk factors for both are similar.  FeLV is a greater risk to kittens and causes a high fatality rate within a couple of years of infection.  FIV is a danger to cats of all ages but infected cats can live for many years with good veterinary care.
As infected cats can spread disease and are prone to serious infections from things like cat fights they must be kept indoors.  Special attention to dental hygeine and general health are important.
Feline Leukemia virus (FeLV)
FIV and FeLV can be heartbreaking infections: I've treated many older cats which struggled with health issues caused by poor immunity with FIV, cats which have died of Leukemia from FeLV infection, and even had to recommend whole litters of kittens be put down because they had FeLV and would die young and possibly spread the disease.  Some owners have even adopted a cat with Feline AIDS or Leukemia only for it to infect their other cat!
Vaccinating for FIV and FeLV takes 3 initial visits 2 weeks apart, then annual boosters.  The vaccines are generally safe and well tolerated.

Both FIV and FeLV are serious threats to outdoor cats.  If you haven't vaccinated your cat you should have them tested and vaccinated.  Contact your vet with any questions.

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