Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
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Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
Let me test your medical knowledge. What can't be seen with the naked eye, but causes illness in people, pets, plants and bacteria? Antibiotics have no effect on them. Vaccines are available to help protect against some of them but not all. The vaccines that are available are good but none are 100% effective. Scientists that study them are not in total agreement as to whether they are alive or dead. What are they? Viruses.
Viruses are microscopic particles that can only reproduce by infecting other living cells. They can cause diseases ranging from the common cold, bird flu, rabies or the deadly feline viral disease known as fiv, feline immunodeficiency virus. If this reminds you of HIV, there is a very good reason why. The two viruses are very similar. Both are known as retroviruses. Though they are very similar, fiv cannot affect people, and HIV cannot infect or sicken cats
How common is this disease? It will depend on where you live and whether or not your cat lives indoors (highly recommended) or explores the neighborhood. All cats contracting this disease will experience a shortened lifespan, a life that can be fraught with a Pandora's Box of aliments. Fiv is a fatal disease. Feline immunodeficiency virus usually affects cats around 5 years of age. But why cats that live outdoors? Typically it is the outdoor cat that gets into fights. The virus particles found in the saliva and blood gain entry into a cat's body through deep bite wounds.
Cat owners can be lulled into a false sense of security by having a cat that is infected but looks just fine. Fiv, similar to HIV, may lay dormant in the body and not cause problems for years. Cats don't usually die of fiv directly, but rather from the complications of diseases that weaken the immune system or those affecting the kidneys, liver, respiratory system or brain. Signs that you may see in an infected cat can range from chronic vomiting or diarrhea, a cold that just won't go away, unexplained weight loss, or gum and dental disease. Changes in behavior, sometimes aggression have been reported.
A simple blood test can be used to detect whether your cat is harboring this deadly virus. It is strongly recommended to have all new additions to your feline family tested for feline viral diseases such as fiv and felv, feline leukemia virus, prior to introducing them to your resident cats. Occasionally kittens will be infected while they are still in the uterus. A kitten that tests positive should be retested again in 6 to 8 months to confirm its viral status.
Protecting your cat from this deadly disease is as simple as keeping your cat indoors. If this is not feasible, a vaccine is now available. Remember, no vaccine is 100% effective. Also, the body's immune response to the vaccine will make detecting an active case of fiv by the routine screening test null and void.