FIV, FeLV, AIDS and Herpes Virus in Cats
FIV or Feline AIDS – Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, also referred to as FIV or Feline AIDS, is considered a slow virus because it often takes long amounts of time for symptoms to show up. Though it is in the family of FeLV (see below) the two viruses vary greatly in their cellular makeup and composition. It is a very species oriented virus so people and other animals won’t contract the disease from an infected cat.
FIV will compromise a cat’s immune system, making them more susceptible to falling ill. Secondary illnesses are often detrimental to the cat’s health. Infection is most often caused by being bitten by another infected cat, which means outdoor, free-roaming cats are at greatest risk of contracting FIV. The disease is rare in the U.S. with only 1.5-3% of cats being affected.
FeLV – Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is what’s known as a retrovirus because it creates an enzyme that inserts copies of itself into the cells it infects. Roughly 2-3% of all cats in the U.S. are infected. However, for those that are most at risk – very young, ill, etc. – the rate rises to 13%.
The FeLV virus is transmitted through a cat’s saliva, milk, urine, feces and nasal secretions. Once contracted, the FeLV can cause blood disorders, immune system deficiencies and it is also the most common cause of cancer. The early stage of the infection, when no signs of illness may be present, is called the Primary Viremia. The virus may move into the Secondary Viremia, a more advanced stage, when the virus enters the bone marrow and other tissue.
Herpes Virus in Cats – Feline Viral Rhinopneumonitis, more commonly referred to as feline herpes or FVR, can be contracted by any cat. However, kittens, flat-faced cats such as Persians and those with weakened immune systems are more susceptible. The virus is transferred when an infected cat’s eye, nose or mouth discharge comes in contact with other cats.
Feline herpes is highly contagious and can be passed through grooming, sharing water or food dishes and litter boxes. Some infected cats also don’t display symptoms of infection, which makes the virus harder to contain. Symptoms include sneezing, discharge from the eyes and nose, pink eye, eye ulcers and fever.