Feline Leukemia Symptoms

"Feline Leukemia symptoms vary based on the type of leukemia your cat is suffering from. Symptoms may not appear for years after infection. Problems may be due to secondary infections that form due to a weakened immune system."

Feline Leukemia symptoms can appear years after your cat was actually infected, even years. Most cats with healthy immune systems can completely fight the disease. These cats do not show or suffer from any symptoms. Approximately 98% of cats fall into this category.

Those cats that are not strong enough to fight the disease show symptoms that are dependent on the strain of virus and secondary problems that form due to a weakened immune system.

How Feline Leukemia Is Spread

The virus must be transmitted from cat to cat. It is found in cat's that have not been vaccinated, in cats where the vaccination has not taken hold such as kittens that were vaccinated too early, outdoor cats and adopted cats.

The virus moves from cat to cat when an infected cat sheds the virus via saliva or nasal secretions, via a bite, or if two cats are grooming each other. It can also be spread from urine and feces such as in a shared litter box. The virus dies quickly when exposed to air so it is not likely that two cat's that are near each other will get infected.

Onset of Cat Leukemia Symptoms

As mentioned, symptoms can start years after infection. This happens when the virus finds itself into the bone marrow and doesn't spread from there into the blood stream until years later.

Symptoms can start to appear slowly to the point where you start to believe that your cat is getting sick more often than normal. Symptoms can be mild with your cat appearing to recover completely. Over time the virus weakens the immune system allowing other diseases to take hold such as infections.

Symptoms vary from cat to cat and the type of Feline Leukemia contracted.

Feline Leukemia Symptoms

Type of Feline Leukemia


Lymphosarcoma (20% of infected cats) - type that spreads (neoplastic)

Tiredness (lethargy), anorexia (does not want to eat), weight loss

Feline Alimentary Leukemia (refers to the route food takes through the body)

Anorexia (avoid eating), vomiting, diarrhea

Multicentric (problems in multiple locations in the body) Lymph Node disease, kidney disease, enlargement of the spleen, enlarged liver
Thymic (lymph gland in the kneck) Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), difficulty breathing (dyspnea), skin discoloration (cyanosis).
Lymphiod (occurs in the bone marrow) Jaundice (yellow discoloration of the eyes), fever, anemia (low red blood cell count)

Feline Myeloid (bone marrow, spinal cord) Leukeukemia

Anemia (low red blood cell count), fever, weight loss

Feline Leukemia Symptoms from Secondary Infection

With a weak immune system your cat will be susceptible to infection from bacterial fungus, protozoas and other viruses. The following are not cat leukemia symptoms, but symptoms of other diseases:


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

D.J. Wise, G.R. Carter, E.F. Flores
Department of Biology, Concord University, Athens, West Virginia, USA


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