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Cat health

Feline AIDS (FIV)

Feline AIDS is a viral infection, commonly known as FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus), and is spread by cats fighting. Just like human HIV (AIDS), cats infected with FIV can develop a reduced ability to fight off infections as the disease progressively disables the immune system.

What are the signs of Feline AIDS? Once infected, cats may seem healthy and signs may not develop for up to 10 years. Eventually cats with AIDS will show a range of vague non-specific symptoms as the virus interfers with normal immune function.

  •  Anorexia (loss of appetite)
  •  Weight loss
  •  Depression
  •  Dermatitis
  •  Mouth and gum disease
  •  Persistent diarrhoea, vomiting and anaemia
  •  Respiratory, urinary and skin infections
  •  Nervous system problems

How does my cat get AIDS?
Cats are mostly infected through fighting and biting, as the virus is present in the saliva. This means that older, male, outdoor cats are most at risk.

How can I tell if my cat has AIDS?
Your vet will look at your cat's medical history and any signs of illness present before deciding whether to test for AIDS. A simple blood test is used to diagnose the presence of the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).

Can Feline AIDS be cured?
Unfortunately, the FIV virus cannot be killed and there is no cure. Once there is immunodeficiency present, and your cat has developed Feline AIDS, treatment is aimed to help stop infections and give supportive care until the disease is fatal, or your cat needs to be euthanased. Cats with FIV are 7-8 times more likely to develop cancers especially lymphoma.

How can I prevent AIDS infection in my cat?
Since the virus is spread by fighting, keeping your cat indoors will prevent exposure. The virus is fragile and does not survive well in the environment. There is vaccination that offers good protection (50-60%) against the virus. It requires 3 separate injections over a 4-8week period, then an annual booster.

What do I do if my cat has AIDS?
Having the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is not an immediate death sentence as many positive cat's live for years without signs of disease, and it is not clear if all infected cats will become ill. However, you should keep your cat indoors to prevent it spreading the disease, and to prevent it from picking up other infections once its immune system is affected.

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