Feline FIV

"Feline FIV is a virus that slowly weakens the immune system of your cat. With lower immunity, your cat becomes vulnerable to other diseases. While there is no cure, the goal is to minimize your cat's exposure to illnesses that can further weaken his or her health."

Feline FIV, or feline immunodeficiency virus, is known as a lentivirus, or “slow virus.” Cats with the virus may appear perfectly healthy for many years. Eventually, though, the immune system begins to fail. Infected cats become ill from bacteria, viruses, and other illnesses that most healthy cats are able to fight off.

FIVin cats is primarily spread through bite wounds which is why male cats are more likely to contract the disease since they bite more often than females. It is not spread through casual, social contact among cats. It may be passed from a mother cat to her kittens, either during birth or from nursing.

The only way to prevent your cat from becoming infected is to prevent her from being exposed. That means keeping her away from any cats that may be infected. There is a vaccine that may help prevent your cat from becoming infected. However, the vaccine does not seem to work for all cats. Nonetheless, we strongly recommend you get your cat vaccinated to provide the most protection you can.

There are no known cases of cat FIV being passed from a cat to a human.

Feline FIV Symptoms

When cats are first infected with the virus, it is carried to the lymph nodes where it is reproduced in white blood cells. This causes swelling of the lymph nodes. Cats may also run a fever at this time. However, the swollen lymph nodes are temporary and often pass unnoticed. Cats may then appear healthy for a long time before their immune systems begin to decline.

Once the disease begins to affect the immune system, feline FIV symptoms include:

Certain kinds of blood diseases and cancers are also common in cats with feline FIV. Because FIV in cats is most often spread through bite wounds, unaltered males who roam outdoors are at greatest risk for the disease.

Feline FIV Diagnosis

Feline FIV is diagnosed with a blood test. Infected cats make antibodies to the virus, and these can be detected in the blood. However, it takes eight to 12 weeks after exposure for the antibodies to appear, so if your cat was just exposed to the virus, she should be tested again in 60 days.

Feline FIV Treatment

There is no cure for FIV cats. Instead, when your cat becomes ill with a secondary infection, it will be treated as appropriate, for instance with antibiotics.

Cats with FIV should be kept indoors, both to prevent them from spreading the virus to other cats and to help prevent them from contracting other illnesses.

Cats with FIV should be fed a nutritious, well-balanced diet. Ask your vet about the best diet for your cat.

You might also want to discuss a natural remedy that is made to support immune system function such as PetAlive Immunity & Liver Support Formula. It combines ingredients such as Taraxacum officinalis (Dandelion) which can have a beneficial effect on the liver and digestive system. (Kuusi T, Pyylaso H, and Autio K. “The bitterness properties of dandelion. II. Chemical investigations.” Lebensm-Wiss Technol 1985;18:347-349. ) Dandelion is also a source of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, D, C, various B Vitamins, iron, lecithin, silicon, potassium, magnesium, zinc and manganese. It supports liver and gall bladder functioning and helps to maintain fluid balance and healthy blood pressure levels in the body. (Hook I, McGee A, Henman M, and et al. “Evaluation of dandelion for diuretic activity and variation in potassium content.” Int J Pharmacog 1993;31(1):29-34.) to Boost Immune Functioning and Improve Liver Health in Pets

Your cat should see the vet every six months for “wellness visits” to monitor her condition. That way any problems can be caught and dealt with early.


Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus in Cats
Holly Nash DVM

Update on feline retroviral infections
Leah A. Cohn
DVM, BS, PhD, Dipl ACVIM, Columbia, USA

Fighting and Managing Feline Retrovirus Disease
H. Lutz
Clinical Laboratory, Vetsuisse Faculty University of Zürich, Switzerland.


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