The FIV or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is, along with feline leukemia, one of the most common diseases in cats. The difference with leukemia is that IFV is a virus that is classified in the lentivirus group or, in other words, it is a slow virus that affects the immune system of cats over a long period of time.
This is a disease that only affects cats, so neither humans nor other animals can get infected with this virus. The problem with this disease is that it promotes the manifestation of secondary infections and, oddly enough, these infections are the main cause of death in cats infected with IVF or also known as AIDS of cats.
If a cat is infected, three different situations can occur:
- First, let the cat beat the virus and become immune to it.
- Second, that he becomes a carrier but does not suffer from the disease.
- Third, let the animal go on with its life without any symptoms but with the downside of a compromised immune system.
Does life involve a risk of contagion?
It is convenient that they do not share the feeders, mainly because of the problem of saliva, which could be a very distant means of contagion. The only possible way to spread this virus is to spread it through a deep bite from an infected animal to a healthy animal and also through blood transfusions.
And, as we saw above, cannot be transmitted to humans or other animals. So if we have several cats living together and they get along well, that’s okay; the risk is greater when the cat carrying the virus is an aggressive cat. Contact which is not aggressive between cats sharing the same household does not seem to be a means of contagion.
Mother-to-child transmission is much less common. There is only the possibility of a <strong> infection in the case of IVF seropositive mothers who are in the acute phase of infection during pregnancy and the infection has occurred by ingestion of breast milk or blood from the breast. time of childbirth. But we repeat that these are isolated cases, since kittens in the womb are protected by the placenta that surrounds them and already born, the mucous membrane protects them from transmission.
5 symptoms -; phases of this disease at PFD
Infection with PFD in cats generates a slow process, in which they go through different stages, similar to those suffered by humans infected with AIDS. In feline immunodeficiency with symptoms we observe:
1. In a first phase or acute phase, fever, neutropenia (number of neutrophils in the blood too low) and lymphadenopathy (inflammation of the lymph nodes) may be observed. Diarrhea and mild respiratory symptoms may occur. The death rate is low, and although there is recovery at this point, all cats become carriers of the infection. This phase lasts about 4 to 16 weeks.
2. In the second phase or also known as asymptomatic carriers , the virus in the blood can be isolated and cats show alterations in the immune system. Under natural conditions, we could not say with certainty how long this phase will last, but in the case of experimental studies it has been shown to last up to 4 years.
3. In the third phase or lymphadenopathy phase , relapsing fever, lymphadenopathy, leukopenia (decrease in the number of leukocytes in the blood), anorexia, anemia, weight loss and behavior changes occur. This phase is relatively short and lasts only a few months.
4. In the fourth phase, symptoms such as chronic secondary infections, chronic diarrhea, blood or hematological changes, thinning, stomatitis or inflammation of the oral mucosa, as well as of the gum and periodontal tissues may appear. This phase usually lasts for months to years and the felines that survive it reach a state similar to that of human AIDS.
5. In the fifth or terminal phase, opportunistic infections (infections that take advantage of a weakened immune system), extreme thinness, anemia or leukopenia may appear. Eye disturbances, neurological disturbances, changes in character, mental deterioration, psychotic behavior and nervous tics can also be observed. Most cats at this stage usually die within 1 to 6 months.
Other symptoms that we could mention would be:
- Depleted or dull coat
- Recurrent skin infections
- Abortion and reproductive problems in infected fertile cats.
The veterinarian will perform an examination and take into account the symptoms of our pet in order to make a diagnosis, but in order to check if the animal is infected with the feline immunodeficiency virus, he will have to perform various techniques for detection. IVF antibodies. Such tests can be performed in a veterinary clinic, but since they are not always 100% reliable, more complex tests can be used in the laboratory. Tests such as western blot, PCR technique, and radioimmunoprecipitation are performed. Currently, there is an immunochromatogenic test that simultaneously detects feline leukemia antigen and feline immunodeficiency antibodies.
Treatment of feline immunodeficiency
The most important treatment for feline immunodeficiency is prevention. The cat must be protected from exposure to any type of infectious agent that could cause serious illness or even death because it is an animal with a weakened immune system. In order to prevent your cat from becoming infected, it is best not to leave the house and, if it is already infected, this is the only way to prevent it from spreading to other animals and prevent any virus or bacteria from endangering your cat’s life.
There is a vaccine that can help prevent PFD infection. Cats are vaccinated at around 8 weeks of age against the feline immunodeficiency virus. Two additional reinforcements are given 2-3 weeks apart, in addition to the annual reinforcements, if there is still a risk of exposure to the virus. As with most vaccines, the IFV vaccine causes the body to produce antibodies and prevents infections.
If your cat is infected, you need to strengthen its immune system and therefore its defenses. There are antimicrobial drugs that can prevent the attack of bacteria and future infections in animals. There are also anti-inflammatory drugs for some symptoms like stomatitis and gingivitis, and if you have a fever you may be given antipyretics. In addition to providing medicines to our pets, the diet of cats with feline immunodeficiency must be special.
It is recommended to follow a diet rich in calories and protein. Another key factor is not to forget the dewormer, for which it would be convenient to have a vaccination schedule because any guest who is installed in your cat could kill it. Whether your cat is male or female, sterilization is recommended. This keeps them from leaving the house and looking for trouble with other feral cats in the heat. In the event that it is female and IVF positive, possible contagion during pregnancy or breastfeeding is avoided in this way. As the owner, you are responsible for the health of your cat, so you must be constant in this preventive care if you want to give it a life of dignity.
Any new cat arriving at the family home must be examined by a veterinarian and kept isolated from other animals for several weeks of quarantine. During this period of time, you must be testing for IVF, to rule out any type of contagion with other pets. There is an antiviral called interferon, which has been tested in clinical trials to improve symptoms of the virus.
Although there is currently no cure for this disease or treatment that works directly on the IFV virus, with proper care your cat can enjoy a good quality of life.
This article is informative, without being able to recommend veterinary treatment, so we suggest you consult your veterinarian if you experience any unusual symptoms.
If you found the information provided interesting, on Feline Immunodeficiency you can share it and if your cat has this disease we would love to hear about your experience in the comments, for other readers.
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