With all the focus on AIDS in people, there are more and more questions surrounding the very similar AIDS virus in cats. However, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus differs from Feline Leukemia Virus with which it is commonly confused.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is a lentevirus that causes disease by suppressing the immune system.
The virus can be detected in the bloodstream by a test run in the hospital. However, in a healthy cat with no other clinical signs, it is recommended that a blood sample be sent to the lab where a more accurate test may be run to rule out a false positive result.
Initially, there is an acute infection phase that begins about 4 weeks after the infection and lasts for up to 4 months. Cats may exhibit lymph node enlargement, fever, or diarrhea, however, many cats show no clinical signs.
The virus is dormant in the second stage in the cat and may last several months to years. The cat may be healthy and show little to no clinical signs. The last stage lasts 2 to 4 months or less and is characterized by enlarged lymph nodes.
The fourth stage is the development of opportunistic infections, weight loss, and recurrent mouth, respiratory, urinary tract, skin or ear infections, and fever. These diseases may be followed by periods of good health, but as time goes by, the infections become more frequent, more severe, and the interval between infections becomes progressively shorter.
There is no available vaccine to prevent FIV. The virus is transmitted through the saliva, most often through bite wounds. Casual contact between cats and contact with bowels, toys, etc. is an ineffi cient method of transmission. If an FIV positive cat is identifi ed in a multi-cat household, separation of positive cats from negative cats is probably advisable.
If your cat is diagnosed with FIV, it is important to have your veterinarian evaluate both the cat and it’s home environment to help you come up with a plan that works for you and your cat.