Most people have heard of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and AIDS. Did you know, though, that there is a feline version of this disease? While not technically related to human HIV, feline immunodeficiency virus shares many of the same characteristics. The team at Elmhurst Animal Care Center wants you to know what it means to have an FIV positive pet.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Feline immunodeficiency virus, or FIV, is a cat specific disease caused by a retrovirus. It is estimated that between three and five percent of cats in North America carry the virus. Like most retroviruses, after initial infection, symptoms may not become apparent for several years. 

FIV is transmitted through the introduction of infected saliva into the tissues. It is also found in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid.

Most often infection occurs through bite wounds, which makes outdoor male cats who are prone to fighting the most at risk. Kittens who have infected mothers may also be born infected. Thankfully, casual contact is typically not enough to transmit the disease. It cannot be passed to humans. 

FIV shares many similarities with human immunodeficiency virus. When a cat is infected, it can cause the suppression of the immune system. This means that serious consequences may occur due to things that the animal’s body would normally be able to fight off. Infections like a minor upper respiratory infection or skin wound can have serious consequences when they occur in an FIV-positive cat.

Symptoms of FIV infection are often symptoms related to lowered immune function which may include :

  • Inflammation of the mouth and gums
  • Fever
  • Respiratory infection and/or pneumonia
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Poor coat
  • Neurological issues

If we suspect an FIV infection, one of our doctors might recommend blood testing. Routine screening for FIV infection is also recommended as part of your pet’s preventive wellness care program. We recommend testing all cats upon introduction to the home and at-risk cats such as those who spend time outdoors routinely. 

Caring for an FIV Positive Cat

There are no known treatments for feline immunodeficiency virus, however most FIV positive cats can live fairly happy, normal lives.

The key to caring for an FIV-positive cat is protecting them from secondary infection. This makes good wellness care extremely important. 

Keep your FIV positive pet healthy by:

  • Bringing your cat in for routine wellness examinations
  • Feeding a high quality commercial diet (raw food diets in particular are dangerous for immunocompromised pets)
  • Keeping up-to-date on recommended vaccinations
  • Providing good intestinal parasite, heartworm, flea, and tick prevention
  • Minimizing stress which may further contribute to immunosuppression
  • Keeping your pet indoors to minimize chance of infection and spread of the virus amongst cats in the community

We are your best friend when it comes to caring for your cat. If your cat is FIV positive, that relationship is even more important than ever before. 

Don’t hesitate to contact us regarding your cat’s care. We are happy to be your partner in offering your pet the best life possible.