About Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

About Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
About Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

Video: About Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

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Video: Dr. Becker Talks About Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) 2023, February
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Leukemia virus cats (Feline of leukemia virus) - one of the most common diseases, the virus inhibits the action of the immune system of an animal. FeLV-infected cats become susceptible to many diseases. What questions are raised about the feline leukemia virus? What is FeLV and can a person get this disease?

The FeLV virus is specific to cats only. FeLV is believed to be the most common cause of serious illness and death in domestic cats. The virus damages the immune system of the animal. In this case, cats can get various diseases that the defense mechanisms of a healthy animal could cope with. FeLV cannot be transmitted to humans or other animals such as dogs.

Is FeLV Like AIDS? People often use the expression "like AIDS" to describe numerous diseases in animals and humans, assuming that they know enough about AIDS to apply similar analogies. Unfortunately, most people know almost nothing about AIDS. As a result, they carry their cats and dogs to the nearest clinic to be euthanized, as they are mortally afraid of AIDS. The only similarity between FeLV, FIV (Feline immunodeficiency virus) and FIP (Feline infectious peritonitis) is their genetic nature. All of them are RNA viruses; FeLV and FIV are retroviruses, FIP is coronavirus.

Feline leukemia virus, photo
Feline leukemia virus, photo

Feline Leukemia Virus

What are retroviruses? Retroviruses contain enzymes that trigger processes in DNA known as "reverse transcription". In the normal state, RNA copies itself with the help of DNA and thereby multiplies. The RNA virus does the same by tricking DNA into copying and replicating the virus rather than normal RNA. Thus, as long as a cell is affected by a retrovirus, it will continue to generate it. And the only way to interrupt this spawn sequence is to kill the cell. This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to fight retroviruses, since it is necessary to destroy all cells containing the virus, and an attempt to do this can lead to the death of a living creature. Indeed, it is almost impossible to determine which cells contain the virus and which are normal RNA sequences. Figuratively speaking,retroviruses are parasites, only at the genetic level.

How is the virus spread? FeLV is transmitted through saliva, phlegm, urine, feces, and blood. This means that the most common reasons for the transmission of the virus are grooming different animals with the same tools, fighting between animals. The use of the same utensils for food and drink, the joint keeping of different animal droppings - all this is also a real way of transmission of the virus.

Can a person infect his healthy cat if he has been in contact with an infected cat before? Not. Unless he picks up a healthy cat immediately after an infected one, and he has no fresh saliva, secretions or urine from an infected animal on his hands. Even so, the chances of transmitting the infection are slim. The virus is transmitted through a carrier medium and does not survive outside the "host" (infected animal). A warm, dry environment has a detrimental effect on the virus, and frequent house cleaning and disinfection can easily destroy it. If you just wash your hands with soap and water after contact with infected animals, then the virus will never be transmitted to another animal.

What effect does the virus have on a cat? In general, once a virus has entered the cells of an animal, it begins to reproduce in the lymph circulation, the body's first immune barrier. Some animals are able to develop immunity against the virus and defeat it already at this stage. If the defense mechanisms of the animal's body cannot develop immunity at this stage, the virus enters the bone marrow tissue. It is in the bone marrow that white and red blood cells are formed. In the tissues of the bone marrow, the virus can remain latent (hidden) for many years. And after a certain period of time, it can begin to attack the animal's body, causing damage to its defense mechanisms.

Are there any vaccines for FeLV? Yes, there are several vaccines. But so far nowhere has a single standard for the FeLV virus been developed. Therefore, various manufacturers of antiviral vaccines publish their own performance ratings, which cannot be compared with each other due to the lack of such a standard. Assessing the effectiveness of vaccines is difficult. We can only confidently say that your cat is much less likely to contract the FeLV virus when using antiviral drugs. However, antiviral drugs are not 100% effective, so precautions must be taken to avoid contracting the virus. It should be noted that no medications, whether they are intended for cats, dogs or humans, provide a complete guarantee of health.

X-ray of a FeLV-positive cat with lung cancer, photo photograph
X-ray of a FeLV-positive cat with lung cancer, photo photograph

X-ray of a FeLV-positive cat with lung cancer

It is believed that the likelihood of contracting feline leukemia for a cat is approximately 30%, even in the case of regular close contact with the sick animal. There is no scientific evidence to support this judgment.

However, many interviewed veterinarians argued that the likelihood of infection directly depends on the duration of contact, which, in turn, depends on the situation. But what does the statement mean: "… the chance for a cat to be infected with FeLV is approximately 30% …"? A person will not stop using seat belts, even if they only help 30% in the event of a severe accident!

If the owner does not vaccinate their cat against FeLV, what are the animal's “natural” defense mechanisms? According to the scientific literature, newborn kittens have a 100% chance of becoming infected at the first contact with a sick animal. Two-month-old kittens have an 85% chance of being infected on first contact. There are serious discussions about the protective mechanisms of adult unvaccinated animals, but there is reason to believe that about 40% of cats who have had contact with an infected animal acquire immunity, 30% can be considered permanently ill (that is, the analysis identifies ulcerative traces of concomitant diseases), and about 30% of cats become virus carriers in a latent form.

How often should animals be vaccinated and how much does the vaccine cost? After your growing kitten has coped with all of its most difficult "kitty" vaccinations, it should be vaccinated once a year. If you have picked up a kitten or acquired an adult animal and do not know if it is vaccinated against FeLV, do so immediately during the routine vaccination period. If you are unsure if your adult animal needs a vaccination at all, talk to your veterinarian. Vaccination prices vary from veterinarian to veterinarian, and pet owners need to research the vaccine market before vaccinating their cat.

What is the owner's risk when vaccinating his animal? The only risk is that your animal could have an allergic reaction to vaccines, any vaccines! It would be a good idea to wait half an hour at the vet's office after you have vaccinated your animal with any vaccine to make sure there is no unexpected reaction. In any case, the veterinarian will always be there to help you deal with the situation if complications arise.

There are cases where vaccines can cause tumors (known as post-vaccination sarcomas). This happens in about one to two animals out of 10,000, but nevertheless, you need to be aware of this possibility. This does not only apply to FeLV vaccines. Initially, it was believed that this phenomenon only occurs with the use of plague vaccines. Since the likelihood of developing tumors is very small, you should not change the annual vaccination schedule, just pay attention to tumors that may occur on the animal's body at the site of vaccination. If you have any doubts, discuss them with your veterinarian.

Is the owner obligated to vaccinate his animal? Not. No one can force you to do this, except for individual vaccinations (such as plague or rabies), if where you live there are special laws that oblige you to vaccinate animals. Check with your veterinarian about what vaccinations are mandatory in your area.

If animals never leave the house, should they be vaccinated? If you live on a high enough floor, do not plan to move next year and do not intend to exhibit your animals, or acquire a new kitten, or temporarily take someone into your house, then there really is no need to vaccinate them. If there is any risk that your cat may leave the house for one reason or another (an open window, a guest who does not know about the existence of cats in the house, etc.), she also has some risk of contracting the virus.

Even a few hours or days that a cat is outdoors, she can come into contact with infected animals. So it's better to add another 75-80% to your pet's own defenses!

Now, some pet owners already understand that the negative aspects described above (negative reaction to vaccinations, the possibility of skin sarcoma) do not outweigh the likelihood that the animal may accidentally get out into the street. And only in your power to decide how much this probability is higher than the likelihood of troubles that may result from vaccination. Breeders are divided in risk assessment. And therefore - the next question.

By Erin Miller

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