Feline Leukemia

It is pretty confusing to deal with feline leukemia in litters of youngkittens. It is entirely possible for only part of the litter or even onekitten to be infected and the rest of the litter unaffected. Some kittens(or cats) who are infected with feline leukemia will develop immunity tothe virus and will not ever become ill from it. Probably about 30% of thetime this happens. Some kittens will be able to sequester the virus inthe bone marrow or central nervous system where it will not cause harmuntil some future stress occurs and causes the immune system to fail inits suppression of the virus. This is usually considered to be a latentinfection. Some cats can tolerate the virus but can not suppress it. Thesecats have virus in their bloodstream constantly. They are carriers of thedisease because they are infectious to other cats. Finally, some cats diefrom the initial infection. This wouldn't be too confusing except for onething. There is no easy way that I know of to tell the difference betweena cat who becomes immune and one who is latently infected. So it is veryhard to be sure that future problems won't crop up if a kitten tests positivefor the virus and then later tests negative.

Cats with feline leukemia often have an increased susceptibility to bladder infections (actually to many infections). It would be best to besure that this was not leading to the behavioral changes. Cats with felineleukemia also often have behavioral changes that do not always seem tohave a specific physical cause. In some cases they may be too weak to makeit to a litterpan in a location such as the second story of a house oreven into a litterpan with high sides. If there is an suspicion this isthe case it is definitely a problem you need to discuss with your vet.Lastly, cats with feline leukemia can have physical and behavioral problemstotally unrelated to the feline leukemia. If this seems to be the casethe standard advice for litterpan problems found in our cat informationarea would apply.

Feline leukemia virus is one of the more common causes of fluid accumulationin the chest of cats. This can be chylothorax (accumulation of white bloodcells) or other effusions. In general the presence of fluid in the chestin combination with the history of feline leukemia is a poor prognosticsign. Many times a secondary tumor in the chest, associated with the felineleukemia, is causing the fluid accumulation. In this case radiation therapy or chemotherapy for the tumor (it is important to make sure there is atumor) may provide short term relief but the prognosis for survival longterm is still pretty grim -- probably about 3 or 4 months.

With aggressive care for illnesses and a good quality of life, manycats can live a long time with feline leukemia but almost all have a shortenedlife span.