Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)

It is estimated that approximately 10% of cats have FIV.

Overview

FIV is a virus that affects the immune system of a cat and is usually transferred through bite wounds. It is estimated that approximately 10% of cats have FIV. FIV is a slow-acting virus that attacks the immune system rendering a cat susceptible to infections. Outdoor cats and cats that fight such as entire males are at a higher risk of contracting the virus. FIV is transmitted through bite wounds and usually during cat fights from one cat to another. Although rare, queens can also transfer the virus to their offspring depending on the level of virus in her system. FIV cannot be transmitted from cat to humans. There is no treatment for the virus.

Signs

Common signs of FIV:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Off food
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dental disease

FIV is considered a slow disease and has a long asymptomatic phase where signs may not be present. Cats usually present with general infections such as gingivitis, conjunctivitis, and diarrhoea.

There are 5 different stages of the disease:

  1. Primary infection
  2. Carrier state
  3. Generalised lymph node disease and enlargement
  4. AIDS-related complex
  5. AIDS

A blood test can determine whether a cat has FIV or not. It is recommended that both healthy and sick cats be tested for FIV. Cats that are in a fight and develop wounds or abscesses should be tested for FIV 2 months after the fight to determine whether they have contracted FIV.At that time we can initiate a vaccination program to protect your cat more. Some cats may take longer to seroconvert (meaning the infection can be picked up by a blood test) so it is advised to have a second blood test done 6 months later.

Management

Management of the condition requires treating any infection and keeping the cat comfortable.

Tips

Tips to help manage a cat with FIV:

  • Complete and balanced diet
  • Isolation from other cats
  • Parasite control
  • Keep indoors and prevent roaming outdoors
  • Watching for any early behavioural or health changes

If an FIV-infected cat becomes sick, always seek veterinary attention.

In terms of prevention, a vaccine does exist. However, it is not considered a core vaccine and will be offered to cats at risk of contracting the disease. Please speak to our friendly team for more information.