Feline Leukemia: What is it?

Dr. Laurie Page discusses the virus after a rescue cat tested positive

  • Feb. 10, 2016 8:00 p.m.

A recent case of Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) in a stray cat has raised questions and concerns.

The cat, known as Chester, was hanging around a house in Nakusp and was eventually trapped and given to PALS (ProtectingAnimal Life Society) to care for. Although very scared, he was clearly not wild and at one time had a home.

During routine screening, Chester tested positive for Feline Leukemia Virus, meaning that the virus was found in his blood. Asecond test confirmed that the virus is inside his cells and he is considered permanently infected with Feline Leukemia Virus.

Cats with FeLV may appear healthy, and it can take months or years before they show symptoms such as anemia or cancer.During this time, they can be infectious to other cats, mainly through saliva. Outside cats like Chester are at a high risk forgetting this virus when they fight with other cats, and it can also be transmitted by cats licking and grooming each other. Thevirus does not survive outside of the cat, nor does it infect other species.

There is a vaccine to prevent FeLV, but it is not effective after a cat has become infected with the virus.

What’s in store for Chester? At the moment, he appears healthy. He has been neutered, adapted to an indoor life, and enjoysbeing petted and getting human attention. The volunteers at PALS hope that he will be adopted to a loving home where he canenjoy life for however much time he has, whether it is months or years.

Laurie Page, DVM

Nakusp Veterinary Clinic


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