Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), sometimes called feline AIDS, is a retrovirus that infects cats. FIV is a feline-only virus, and there are no reports of people, dogs or other pets contracting it. In the United States, it is estimated that between 1 and 3 percent of healthy cats are infected with this virus.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

How it Affects your pet

FIV is primarily spread through bites from infected cats, so outdoor male cats, especially intact males, are at increased risk of contracting the virus. It is also possible for a pregnant pet to pass the virus to the kittens in her womb. FIV does not linger for long periods of time in the environment and is not commonly transmitted through grooming, sharing food bowls or other casual forms of contact. Four to six weeks after a cat is infected with FIV, the animal may develop minor symptoms including fever and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms resolve in a few days and are often not noted by the owner. Infected cats remain healthy for a variable period of time after the initial infection. This period can last from several months to many years. In fact, some infected cats live their entire lives and die of other causes without ever showing FIV symptoms. Most, however, will eventually develop symptoms. The factors that lead to the transformation of FIV from a dormant virus to a virus that causes severe disease are not well understood, but when the virus does become active, it attacks the immune system. The resultant damage leaves affected cats vulnerable to other infections and to certain types of cancer. In most cases, symptoms wax and wane over a period of months to years and grow progressively worse with each bout of illness.

Common symptoms

Symptoms of active FIV infection vary based on the secondary infections present in each infected pet. Some of the more common symptoms of this cat health problem include the following: Fever, Swollen lymph nodes, Pale gums, Decreased appetite, Poor coat condition, Inflammation of the mouth or gums, Chronic conjunctivitis, Behavior changes, Problems with urination, Recurrent skin infections and Poor wound healing.

Treatments

There is no cure for FIV. Once the virus becomes active, cats can be managed for months to years with appropriate veterinary and home care. This involves preventing and treating secondary infections and other pet health problems through the judicious use of antibiotics and other therapies. In addition, owners of infected cats should keep their pets away from stressful situations and potential sources of infection. Other treatments are used as necessary depending on the particular symptoms of each infected cat. The best way to prevent FIV infection is to keep cats inside whenever possible. If cats are allowed to roam, they should be neutered to reduce their desire to fight. A vaccine against the virus does exist, but it does not protect against all strains of the virus. In addition, cats vaccinated with whole-virus vaccines will test positive for FIV for the remainder of their lives.

Breeds Affected

All cats are at-risk for developing FIV infection.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus Affects

  • FIV is primarily spread through bites from infected cats, so outdoor male cats, especially intact males, are at increased risk of contracting the virus. It is also possible for a pregnant pet to pass the virus to the kittens in her womb. FIV does not linger for long periods of time in the environment and is not commonly transmitted through grooming, sharing food bowls or other casual forms of contact. Four to six weeks after a cat is infected with FIV, the animal may develop minor symptoms including fever and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms resolve in a few days and are often not noted by the owner. Infected cats remain healthy for a variable period of time after the initial infection. This period can last from several months to many years. In fact, some infected cats live their entire lives and die of other causes without ever showing FIV symptoms. Most, however, will eventually develop symptoms. The factors that lead to the transformation of FIV from a dormant virus to a virus that causes severe disease are not well understood, but when the virus does become active, it attacks the immune system. The resultant damage leaves affected cats vulnerable to other infections and to certain types of cancer. In most cases, symptoms wax and wane over a period of months to years and grow progressively worse with each bout of illness.

Similar conditions

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