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Ask the Vet About Feline Leukemia in Cats

Feline Leukemia
Symptoms & Diagnosis
Treatment
Ask the Vet
Ask the Vet About Feline Leukemia in Cats
MichaelDym, V.M.D.
Michael Dym, V.M.D.
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

As a practicing veterinarian, Dr. Dym has over 19 years of experience and dedication to enhancing the overall health and well-being of pets. His commitment and passion for pet health continuously drives him to learn more about the art and science of homeopathy through ongoing training and education.

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Showing 1 - 15 of 47
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Showing 1 - 15 of 47
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Date: Dec 12, 2019
Category: Feline Leukemia
Pet Type: Cat
Topic: Positive for FeLV/got hurt playing

Question:Hello. I have two cats Xena (girl) and Achilles (male), not litter mates. I used to have 3, and two were litter mates(Xena and Hercules [male]). One of the litter mates (Hercules) died from the feline leukemia last year. They all tested positive. I had to get the other two fixed, and they had no complications. A year later, and Achilles decided to jump from the washer to the shelf about 3 feet away, and missed. I noticed his breathing was faster, and his heart was going so fast I couldn't count it. He was also favoring one side and hiding. So I took him in. We've had the same vet for years. She said she doesn't feel anything broken or any tumors and he hasn't lost weight. His breathing has slowed, approx 40 breaths per minute, not to the same rate at Xena, and his heart is still fast, but I can count it now. It's about 210 beats per minute. He is eating, just not as much, still has solid stools, sleeping more, gums are still pink, not playing but not hiding anymore, and when he breaths his back is moving instead of his ribs. If he just fractured or cracked a rib, what would you suggest to help him heal or feel better? I haven't been letting the kids pick him up, nor pet him hard like he normally likes. Thank you.

Answer:A chest radiograph (x-ray) is ideal so you know exactly what is going on. To directly answer your question about a broken rib - we handle those almost exactly like with people - they just heal on their own 99% of the time. It is good that you are keeping him calm.

Date: Nov 29, 2019
Category: Feline Leukemia
Pet Type: Cat
Topic: Positive for both

Question:We rescued an outdoor stray April 2018, we had him tested when we had him neutered and put him in our spare bedroom. Fast forward to October 2019, he had some bouts with diarrhea and constant ear itchiness. We took him back to be tested and he tested positive for FIV and Feline Leukemia, we have another indoor cat that was not vaccinated, he is 12... the one we rescued is around 6. He was in a brutal fight the day before we took him in April 2018. He was negative then, but positive for FIV and Feline leukemia just recently. If he has a positive for feline leukemia on a duo snap test, would that mean at his age and the duration it has gone to his bone marrow I'd he is showing a positive? The FIV diagnosed I suspected which is sad he has both....

Answer:FELV and FIV can be kind of sneaky viruses like that. It is impossible to tell which cats will and won't do well and live relatively normal lives. You are right that it is unfortunate that he has both but it still doesn't mean he can't get through his issues now and go on and live many good quality years. Lysine is an over-the-counter supplement that has some anti-viral properties and seems to help some cats - here is a link to read about one such product, with the price: https://www.1800petmeds.com/Vetri+Lysine+Plus+Soft+Chews-prod11239.html

Date: Nov 17, 2019
Category: Feline Leukemia
Pet Type: Cat
Topic: Breathing problems long term

Question:We¿ve had Grey for 10 years. About 4 years ago, she started breathing like a pug. We¿ve been to 3 vets. We¿ve tried steroids, antibiotics, steam showers, etc. the general conclusion was that she¿s not in pain. We moved to Florida about two months ago. Her breathing has worsened this week. We have an appt but we¿re not sure what to expect or do. She has loose stool as well. We¿ve tried everything and now we¿re getting worried about our other cats. Any thoughts on what this could be? Should we be concerned about it being contagious?

Answer:You can always ask for a referral to a specialist. They will more than likely want to image her nares/sinuses/head with an MRI or cat scan to determine if a viral infection damaged her nasal tribeculae (tiny bones in her nose) - this is relatively common, creating a "chronic snuffler" - they will also be looking for cancer - and then there are many other possibilities: fungal infections, foreign body, etc etc.

Date: Oct 13, 2019
Category: Feline Leukemia
Pet Type: Cat
Topic: FeLv+ transfer

Question:I had 3 cats and took on a cat that was FeLV+. My 3 cats went through a 3 part vaccination so they did not contact the disease. And every year get a booster. They have been tested for the virus with a negative. I see some shelters and rescues act like if you have a FeLV cat it cannot be around others? What is true? I have 3 cats that say yes if they go through vaccinations.

Answer:Since no vaccine provides 100% protection, it is not recommended, not ideal, but with the cat over-population problem, I feel like it's an acceptable risk for some situations.

Date: Sep 12, 2019
Category: Feline Leukemia
Pet Type: Cat
Topic: IFA test

Question:I volunteer for a cat rescue group. Director says a kitten with positive FeLV ELISA can¿t get IFA test until age 1 year. Is that true? This kitten had positive ELISA test 4 months ago at age 2 months, but shows no signs of any illness. But until he gets IFA test we will be unadoptable (we¿ve been trying!). Is our director correct, or is she misinformed?

Answer:We are all a little different I think because FELV is a sneaky virus and does things other viruses don't do (can go hide in the bone marrow after they test positive, lots of false positive and negatives) so many of us feel ok with a negative result after 6-7 months but some prefer to wait until over a year to be a little more sure of a negative result.

Date: Jun 19, 2019
Category: Feline Leukemia
Pet Type: Cat
Topic: euthanize

Question:My 11 year old cat became ill. Symptoms were dermatitis, anemia, lethargic, and losing weight. Though vaccinated each year for FeLV she tested positive for FeLV. Testing suggested probable bone marrow was compromised. I authorized euthanasia. After the fact I am having doubts. Were there any other alternatives I should I explored?

Answer:This is always a hard decision but her prognosis, since she was FELV positive, was poor. Some cats do ok after a blood transfusion but it's usually the FELV negative cats and, even then, the odds are not great. Many cats get a transfusion, feel better, and then go downhill again immediately, only to have to euthanize then, which would've put her through a lot and been super expensive so you did the right thing.

Date: Jun 1, 2019
Category: Feline Leukemia
Pet Type: Cat
Topic: My two vets give conflicting advice

Question:One of my veterinarians told me that if my new 8 week old kitten tested negative on the snap test she would be considered free of infection. This is my actual vet. The other veterinarian is the vet at the vetco (Petco) clinic. I had the IDEXX 3 in one done and they all came back negative. However the vet had advised against doing it this early. I insisted on doing it anyway. She then told me that it is not a definitive negative test and to wait until the cat is 5-6 months of age for retesting. The kitten was found outside and was severely dehydrated and underweight. She weighed just under a pound at six weeks. The vet did not think she would make it but I got her through the whole ordeal. She is fine and playful, no signs of illness. I am confused as to what I am being told and I want to know what is the truth because two vets saying opposite things regarding an illness that is almost inevitably fatal, is rather concerning. I have two cats at home who are negative for FeLV/FIV/heartworm and this kitten has been kept isolated. I need to know who is correct so that I can rest assured that introducing the cats and integrating the new kitten is not putting my cats at risk. My cats are five and one years of age.

Answer:It is ideal to test young and then again at least 6 months later to be sure there is no latent infection. The first test will usually be the final result, but retesting is ideal.

Date: May 29, 2019
Category: Feline Leukemia
Pet Type: Cat
Topic: Feline leukemia

Question:I took a stray cat that I always Found near my door house because I was always feeding her, so I took her to the vet especially because she was suffering from Stomatitis( inflammation of the mouth)I didn¿t know that at first but I knew she had something wrong going on in her mouth. She seemed very ill to the point that she was drooling a lot always when I feed her she drools and sometimes not eating at all because of her inflammation, also before she eats she always grabs her food and paw at her mouth and does like a chattering sound that clearly shows dental pain so I decided to take her to the vet and see what¿s wrong I took her and they said that she has stomatitis and her gums were already red and inflamed and they told me that we have to extract her molar and premolar teeth i guess.We did that They extracted 4 of her teeth and gave her antibiotics as well as fluids for dehydration, after the extraction of her 4 tooth she did fine for about 2 and a half months but after that the mouth pain came back again so I took her again to the vet and they said her gums are not normal pink and they said we have to extract all of her remaining teeth because she is still suffering from pain, they gave her antibiotics just temporary till we extract her remaining teeth and till now we still didn¿t extract her teeth but we will soon. I read about FELV virus and thought why not do the test especially because she seems having a lot of the symptoms of the FELV virus so I took her to the vet and they did the test for her and they said it turned out Positive for leukemia cancer, I was really shocked after knowing I was sure that there was sth wrong with her. She had lost a lot of weight and there were days were she didn¿t want to eat at all so she had loss of appetite as well as fever, but now she has improved she is eating very well, but still thin I don¿t know why I think she has chronic weight loss and it seems like it does not improve at all even that she always eats a lot like she is starved there¿s no fever now no diarrhea and no vomiting but I think she has breathing difficulty I can tell that from the way she breathes and she also wheezes especially after drinking water is it because of the FELV virus?! I just want to know what can I do to help her and is there any type of medication that I can give at least? Or any kind of test that can detect what stage of infection or how severe is her leukemia virus?! I would love to know Thx.

Answer:There aren't really good tests to tell you how bad the leukemia is - a CBC can tell you how low her white count is but won't give you any kind of a long term prognosis. There are many things you can do: always keep her inside, away from exposure to other cats, consider starting daily lysine and/or interferon. Here is a link to an over-the-counter lysine product: https://www.1800petmeds.com/Vetri+Lysine+Plus+Soft+Chews-prod11239.html Here is a good article about feline leukemia, written by another veterinarian, from a site that I trust: https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4951934

Date: May 21, 2019
Category: Feline Leukemia
Pet Type: Cat
Topic: Is this neceserally FIP?

Question:Hello, I am reaching out to you because I need urgent help. I adopted a kitten 1 month ago. She is now 3 months old. She is cleansed from parasites, and she got her vaccine. Around 2 weeks ago, I've noticed that kitten is sleeping excesively, and than she started urinating all over the house, although her litter box was always acesible to her. I took her to the vet, he said that her body temp.is high and gave her antibiotics. Several days after, I've noticed that her belly is big and swallen. I took her to the vet again and he did ultrasound and said that belly is full of water and she has FIP. He punctired water from belly and said that it shows that it is virus desease. He did FASTest and it turned out negative. He gave her diuretics, and she lost a lot of belly water. She is lethargic, but she eats a lot, she started using litter box again for all her needs. I am not sure if this is FIP, could it be anything else. I mus say that other kittens from same stray cat died, but their adopters never took them to the vet. They died very young, few of them 1 month old, and two of them a week ago, but we don't know their diagnosis. Vet said that euthanasia is only solution. Could you please tell me if there is any hope that this is not this lethal virus. Kind regards

Answer:I'm sorry you are going through this - it really does sound like FIP. Here is a link to a good article about FIP - it is usually fatal but they discuss experimental treatment options and things to make them more comfortable : https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4951549

Date: Mar 25, 2019
Category: Feline Leukemia
Pet Type: Cat
Topic: Supplement

Question:My young cat tested positive for feline leukemia. She is not gaining weight real well. Is their a supplement that you would recommend giving her?

Answer:Yes, a supplement like this one that contains lysine may help her: https://www.1800petmeds.com/Vetri+Lysine+Plus+Soft+Chews-prod11239.html

Date: Mar 3, 2019
Category: Feline Leukemia
Pet Type: Cat
Topic: Feline leukemia

Question:Had to put my cat to sleep yesterday She seemed fine until the other day when she stopped eating Took her to the vet and they said she was very sick and there was nothing they could do She tested positive for feline leukemia How could she become ill so fast I was shocked and heartbroken

Answer:I'm so sorry for your loss. Cats are notorious for hiding illnesses until they are on deaths door unfortunately.

Date: Feb 2, 2019
Category: Feline Leukemia
Pet Type: Cat
Topic: Feline leukemia test

Question:My kitten tested negative for feline leukemia and was given his first vaccine against the virus. He gets his second one next Saturday. 2 of his litter mates recently tested positive. Is my kitten protected from getting the virus?

Answer:That is a really good question - I would definitely have your kitten retested with that history - it is uncommon but there are false positives and false negatives.

Date: Nov 4, 2018
Category: Feline Leukemia
Pet Type: Cat
Topic: Best treatment

Question:Sorry to trouble you but I could really do with some advice.....I am out in the wilds of Thailand, so difficult for me to find out correct information. Are any of the Felv treatments, such as Vibragen, and Zidovudine worth pursuing? Is there anything else you would recommend. Many Thanks. Mark

Answer:These are good questions - both of these drugs are still kind of debated over as to whether they work very well (the first one) and what the side effects are in cats (second one). The first one is pretty benign on your cat's system, so may be worth a try, but may not help too much. The second one has the potential to help more but has more risks of side effects and you would need to work with a specialist that uses the drug a lot.

Date: Nov 3, 2018
Category: Feline Leukemia
Pet Type: Cat
Topic: Testing

Question:If a kitten has a positive ELISA test, what are the chances that the IFA could come back negative?

Answer:It is possible but not very probable, but definitely worth retesting.

Date: Oct 25, 2018
Category: Feline Leukemia
Pet Type: Cat
Topic: Kitten tested positive for FeLV

Question:Dr. Dym, I recently picked up a kitten from a shelter on Saturday. Once we got home I realized that he had worms, we kept him isolated and took him to the vet Monday morning. He was dewormed and they ran a blood test for FeLV and FeV. He tested positive for FeLV. What is the likelihood of him clearing the virus on his own? He no longer has worms, has an appetite, and likes to explore; however, he does sneeze from time to time. We have another 8 month kitty who is in the house and is vaccinated but we have been keeping them separate. I would love to keep him but I can¿t keep the two separated forever. Thank you.

Answer:It is possible but not real probable that he will retest negative. If he does retest positive, it is ideal to keep them separate because no vaccine is 100%.


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