Caring for Cats with FIV
FIV or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is the feline-specific form of what we call HIV or AIDS. FIV attacks and suppresses your cat’s immune system, meaning that she is significantly more at risk of developing illness. There are many infectious agents in the environment that would not cause sickness in a healthy cat. However, since your cat with FIV has a compromised immune system, these same organisms could have a much more potent effect and make her quite unwell.
How is FIV transmitted?
FIV is usually transmitted when an infected cat bites another. This is because the virus passes through the saliva and enters the bloodstream of the feline. The nature of this transmission means that FIV is most prevalent amongst cats that fight regularly, such as un-neutered males who can be particularly aggressive with one another. FIV can also potentially be transmitted from a pregnant cat to her kittens, but instances of this are fairly rare.
While FIV cannot be passed from feline to humans, since it can be passed to other cats living in your home if your cat has FIV, she should either be the only feline in the household, or only share her home with other FIV positive cats. It is also recommended that FIV cats do not live with humans who are also immune-compromised, for example, undergoing chemotherapy. This is because FIV positive felines are more likely to harbour infections that could be passed to people with weakened immune systems.
Symptoms of FIV
The good news is that the virus is slow-acting, and most infected cats can still enjoy a normal lifespan. A cat infected with FIV may not show any symptoms of the disease for a number of years. However, when they do these could include:
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Lacklustre, dishevelled coat
- Inflammation of the eye/s
- Inflammation of the gums
- Inflammation of the mouth
- Hair loss
- Skin redness
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Wounds that don’t heal
- Discharge from the eyes or nose
- Urination difficulties including going frequently, straining to pass and failure to use the litter box
If your feline has any of the symptoms listed above, you should speak to your veterinarian to arrange for her to have a check-up. This will enable your professional to assess her condition and run any necessary tests, including blood panels, to diagnose FIV if it is present.
Caring for your cat with FIV
So, your cat has had a diagnosis of FIV – what next? While there is no specific antiviral treatment currently available for FIV, your vet may recommend some types of therapy to help keep symptoms at bay and manage her condition. These include anti-inflammatory and antibiotic medications, parasite control and immune-enhancing drugs.
As a compassionate pet owner, you will want to ensure you are doing all you can to keep your kitty comfortable. Fortunately, there are also some things that you can do to help manage your FIV-positive pet’s condition. These include:
- Keep your cat indoors. Not only will this restrict her access to diseases that may be present in the outside environment, but you will also protect her from biting and potentially infecting other felines in the community.
- Stick to feeding her a healthy, nutritious diet and ensure that she doesn’t eat any raw food. This is because there are bacteria and parasites in raw food that can pose a hazard to cats that have a compromised immune system.
- Ensure you attend her regularly scheduled check-ups with your vet. These provide an ideal opportunity for your veterinarian to monitor her health and ensure that there are no adverse effects from her FIV status. If any problem is identified and treatment is required, this can be started promptly which improves the likely outcome for your cat.
- Ensure your cat is spayed/neutered. This reduces aggressive tendencies and will prevent a female from passing it on to her kittens should she become pregnant.
If you would like more advice and support on the best way to care for your cat with FIV, please do not hesitate to contact our Port Royal, SC office and speak to our experienced team.