Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is comparable to AIDS in humans. Similar to AIDS, the virus is present in blood, cerebrospinal fluid, and saliva. The most common transmission of the virus is through a cat fight, or rarely during pregnancy as an infected mother may pass it to her offspring. In very rare cases, a cat may contract FIV through saliva. Feline immunodeficiency virus is a slowly progressive virus and cannot survive outside its host.
FIV is species-specific, meaning it cannot be acquired from another species, nor can it be passed to another species; it only occurs within cats. Male cats are almost twice as likely to acquire feline immunodeficiency virus, reflecting their propensity to roam as well as quarrel with other cats.
Common illnesses that may occur simultaneously:
Because this is an immunosuppressive virus, cats are prone to developing secondary conditions such as infections, abscesses, gingivitis, pneumonia, conjunctivitis, and upper respiratory infections. Simple infections can become much more severe and possibly life threatening because of FIV infection.
Diagnosing and treating FIV
FIV is diagnosed using a blood test that can detect specific antibodies within the bloodstream. Generally a second test will be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
After a positive diagnosis is established, there is not much that can be done by means of treatment. There are some immune support therapies that may have some efficacy in preventing secondary illness and infection. For FIV positive cats, the focus is on preventive health care: keeping the cat indoors and away from other cats, routine veterinary care to help prevent secondary illness, and addressing any health concerns immediately, especially any type of infection. FIV-positive cats are capable of living somewhat normal lives when kept in good health.
Currently there is a non-core vaccine available for FIV; however, there is controversy surrounding the vaccine due to the fact that inoculated cats will test positive for FIV. Current FIV antibody tests cannot distinguish between the disease and the vaccination antibodies, therefore it is important to inform us if your cat has obtained the FIV vaccine.
If you have any questions about feline immunodeficiency virus or the FIV vaccine, please contact our office.