feline leukemia

Feline leukemia – symptoms, treatment and infection

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Feline leukemia is a particularly serious and common infectious disease caused by FLVe (Cat Leukemia Virus), which generates in an animal inhibition of one or several parts of its immune system, severe anemia and even the development of malignant tumors. All this causes a drop in the cat’s defense system and there is a higher risk of contracting all types of infections.

At Eistria, we want to discuss leukemia in cats in detail, because it is one of the most common pathologies, which also has a reserved prognosis. In the following, we will explain what feline leukemia actually is, how it spreads and what its most common symptoms are. Similarly, we will discuss with you the diagnosis, veterinary treatment and prevention measures that we can use to protect healthy people.

Feline leukemia virus

What is feline leukemia? The disease commonly known as “feline leukemia” is caused by the feline leukemia virus (FLVe), a retrovirus belonging to the Oncovirinae family. Oncoviruses cause various immune, degenerative, and even proliferative conditions. They can be endogenous or exogenous. In the latter case, they are capable of replication when FLVe is transmitted, as is the case with feline sarcoma virus (FeSV), a type of malignant tumor that occurs in soft tissues.

Within FLVe we find four subgroups, however, virtually all infected cats are infected with FLVe-A. In short, they are characterized by:

FLVe-A: is the original form of the virus, although mutant forms can develop.

FeLV-B: predisposes the cat to changes that are visible to the eye (abnormal tissue growth).

FeLV-C: associated with the development of erythroid hypoplasia and severe anemia.

FeLV-T: predisposes to infection and destruction of T lymphocytes.

Subgroups can be detected by various diagnostic tests, which we will mention later in another specific section. We will discuss contagion further.

How does feline leukemia spread?

The feline leukemia virus spreads mainly during pregnancy, inside the uterus and during lactation, but also through body fluids, such as saliva, urine, blood or nasal secretions. Using the same trash can or food bowl, fights that cause bleeding external wounds, expose healthy cats to the virus.

All cats are susceptible to feline leukemia virus, however kittens and young cats are most susceptible, especially when it comes to domestic cats that have external access, mostly non-neutered males or cats suffering from other conditions (such as respiratory, oral and abscess diseases). or homeless, abandoned cats and feral cats.

When the virus comes in contact with the animal’s immune system, three situations can occur:

The cat is immune and has created antibodies to fight the virus. For a few weeks, it may show the characteristic symptoms of the disease, which will then subside.

The virus enters the blood and saliva, damaging the immune system and causing leukemia. In this case, the cat is susceptible to various diseases. Their lifespan is decreasing.

The virus is purified through blood and saliva, but survives in the bone marrow. Although it can be reactivated, it usually does not affect cats.

Therefore, leukemia in cats is contagious and especially serious, so it is very important to prevent it and take appropriate measures to prevent the infection of our cats.

Has feline leukemia spread to humans?

One of the biggest concerns of caregivers is whether feline leukemia is contagious to humans. Studies have used various strains of FLVe to grow them in human tissues and show whether or not there is a potential risk of transmission to humans. For now, studies show that there are no risks for humans and that there is no known case that can show that it is a zoonotic disease.

Feline leukemia: symptoms

Leukemia in cats and its symptoms are especially diverse and will largely depend on the health condition of the individual. It is common to notice that a sick cat suffers from various health problems at the same time, that it has certain difficulties to overcome them and that, progressively, the general health condition of the cat worsens.

The most common symptoms of leukemia in cats are:




Lack of appetite




Weight loss


Difficulty recovering

Kidney problems

Respiratory problems

Gastrointestinal disorders



Weight loss


Swelling of the lymph nodes



Bacterial infections

Viral infections


Bad hair

Lack of cleanliness

He stops urinating in the sand


The pain

Tooth loss



Diseases of cats with feline leukemia

As we explained to you, cats suffering from feline leukemia virus are susceptible to various diseases, and some of the most common are:


Median lymphoma

Multicentric lymphoma

Spinal lymphoma


Multiple cartilaginous exostoses

Ulcerative proliferative gingivostomatitis

Lymphoid leukemia

Progressive infections




Systemic vasculitis




Fetal death

Placental involution


Bacterial endometritis

Faded kittens syndrome


Peripheral neuropathy

Urinary incontinence



Horner’s syndrome

Nervous dysfunction



Feline calcivirus

Diagnosis of leukemia in cats

If you notice one or more of the above symptoms, you should contact your veterinarian to confirm the disease with a blood test. A simple blood test can determine the presence of feline leukemia virus in your cat.

Some of the tests are:

ELISA (enzyme immunoassay): typical in veterinary clinics. A cat blood sample is taken and detected if there is an antigen or the initial stage of infection. After a few weeks, it will be confirmed whether the cat is positive, because it is not known whether the infection is temporary or permanent.

PCR (polymerase chain reaction): detects virus DNA in affected cells either in blood samples or in other tissues. Although it can detect latent infections, it is not as safe as ELISA.

IFA (direct immunofluorescence): not useful for early stage detection, but useful for confirming positive ELISA results. Detects the presence of antigens in infected cells.

It is possible that the veterinarian will suggest that it be repeated after 30 days if the test is negative, but the risk of infection is high. In addition, if our cat has the freedom to move outside the house, it is recommended that the test be conducted every year. In case of a positive test, additional tests are likely to be required.

Treatment of feline leukemia

It is very important to note that feline leukemia has no cure, however, some cats can lead a quality lifestyle if they receive regular veterinary care that includes the use of antiviral drugs and immunoregulators that help cats gain some protection against secondary infections.

In case we want to supplement the veterinary treatment with natural treatment of feline leukemia, such as vitamins for cats, we will always consult a specialist.

On the other hand, we need to take certain precautions to prevent our cat from infecting other cats. The veterinarian will suggest that we keep the cat indoors to reduce the risk of spreading, in addition, he will suggest castration to avoid escapism resulting from sexual behavior.

Feline leukemia vaccine

Wondering how to prevent feline leukemia? The main measure will be to respect the vaccination schedule of cats for the purpose of immunizing cats. It is also worth noting that vaccination usually has no effect on already infected animals. That is why it is important to make sure that the machete does not have a disease before it is adopted. This is the only way to prevent feline leukemia.

Life expectancy of a cat with feline leukemia

How long does a cat with feline leukemia live? Mortality is generally high, however, we can offer a good quality of life to cats suffering from this disease, which will have a lifespan of between 2 and 4 years. In some cases, we will notice that cats look healthy for several years. In contrast to adult cats, kittens die quickly.



Jovan Subotin

Nutricionista sa 8 godina iskustva u pravljenju programa dijetetski suplemenata. dijeta i nutrcionističkih programa za čišćenje organizma, programa ishrane.

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