Feline Leukaemia Virus, or FeLV, is a virus that causes a fatal disease by affecting the immune system. It can cause vulnerability to other infections, anaemia or tumours. It does not affect humans.
You can vaccinate your cat against the virus and although the amount of FeLV in the cat population has reduced significantly in recent times, it is important you take your cat for annual boosters to maintain their protection.
Cats usually catch FeLV through direct contact with the saliva of infected cats, through grooming or sharing food or water bowls, or through mating behaviour. There is an incubation period of months, or sometimes years, before signs of infection show in those that are infected.
Signs include recurrent infection with respiratory infections, sore gums or digestive problems. The cat might also appear 'off-colour' or have a high temperature. Enlarged lymph nodes, severe anaemia and breeding problems are also signs.
If you suspect your cat has FeLV, it's best to speak to your vet. They'll perform a test to detect the virus in the blood. Unfortunately there is no current reliable treatment for FeLV. Each vet will treat a FeLV-positive cat individually, depending on the signs they develop. Sadly, the outlook is likely to be poor.
Keep infected cats inside and ensure they are fully vaccinated to protect them against other infectious diseases. Unfortunately, many affected cats have to be euthanased because they have a poor quality of life. If you're having to make the sad decision to euthanase your cat, you can find out more in our guide on when to let go.
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