Feline Leukemia Virus
The Feline Leukemia Virus (FLV) is a small contagious virus that causes many different forms of cancer in cats. When a susceptible cat comes in contact with an infected cat or its contaminated saliva, urine, or feces, infection results.
Very few cats die as a result of the initial infection. Some cats can fight off the virus and become immune to it. Some cats show mild signs of illness and recover very quickly. However, these cat do continue to carry the virus in their bodies and may, weeks or years later, show signs of a form of FLV cancer. In addition, these cats may show signs of the diseases common in cats carrying FLV but not directly caused by the virus.
Feline leukemia is diagnosed by a series of blood tests specific for FLV infection. The blood tests are carefully interpreted to determine whether the pet is susceptible to infection, presently infected, or is recovering from a previous infection. Sometimes, the tests are repeated weeks or months later.
There are different forms of cancer caused by FLV. These can be tumors, white blood cell disorders, anemia, a harmful decrease in the number of red blood cells. There can be abnormalities of the blood and lymph system, damage to the nervous system and reproductive problems, such as stillbirths and abortion.
Because there are so many types of cancers that are related to FLV. There are also many signs and sometimes there are no signs at all. However, an affected cat can show signs if long-term depression and lack of appetite. Vomiting and diarrhea may occur if an abdominal tumor is present.
There is no known cure for cancer caused by FLV. In certain cases, treatment may be given in an attempt to bring about remission of the disease. Putting the cat to sleep is recommended to end the suffering of the animal.
Catteries and homes with more than one cat run a greater risk of the FLV infection than do single cat homes. Repeated testing of all cats, isolation of diseased cats, testing and isolation of an infected cat will help control the spread of infection.