Chronic Feline Leukemia Symptoms

Feline leukemia symptoms should be considered seriously, as this disease is one of the main causes of death among cats. It is caused by a highly contagious retrovirus (FeLV), which affects cats and can produce various clinical signs, infections, nervous symptoms and anemia. The action of the virus on the immune system can also cause lymphosarcoma (white blood cells cancer), a disease which develops extremely fast. Almost one fifth of the cats infected with FeLV die of cancer.

Chronic Feline Leukemia Symptoms

The first stage of feline leukemia is characterized by symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Apathy and lethargy
  • Vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration
  • Low appetite and weight loss
  • Swelling of lymph nodes
  • Recurrent infections

The initial stages of the disease are usually manifested through fever and apathy due to anemia, but more serious manifestations and the consequences of the disease can appear in months or years.

The main effect of the virus on the body is that it affects the white blood cells, which means that the cat is no longer capable of fighting other diseases and infections. Therefore, recurrent infections can actually be a sign of leukemia. As mentioned above, leukemia prevents the body to fight other diseases. It is important to have your cat checked by a veterinarian whenever you suspect something might be wrong and especially if you observe that your pet is continuously suffering of infections or other diseases.   

Causes of Chronic Feline Leukemia

The retrovirus responsible for feline leukemia is highly contagious and can be easily transmitted from one cat to another. The virus can be found in the saliva, the urine and all other bodily secretions of the cat, including milk. Therefore, the cat can transmit the disease to her kittens, or they can already have the virus when they are born.

It can also be transmitted through licking, bites, common use of the litter or food recipients. However, direct contact with an infected animal is necessary for the transmission of the virus since it only survives a few hours in the environment. Kittens are more exposed to the risk of catching this disease since their immune system is not as resistant as that of adult cats.

Management of Chronic Feline Leukemia

There is no known treatment for feline leukemia and this is why it is very important to respect some restrictions for the well being of the cat:

  • Continuous medical care and liquids therapy if necessary
  • Treating secondary infections
  • Use of feline omega-interferon
  • Keeping the cat indoors and going for a medical checkup every 6 months
  • Avoidance of high doses of corticosteroids and other immunosupressants which prevent the formation of marrow
  • Cleaning and disinfecting the environment to destroy the virus
  • Restrict contact with other cats to prevent further infestations

Given the seriousness of this condition, correct diagnosis of the condition is extremely important. Once your cat has been diagnosed with feline leukemia, work closely with your veterinarian to make sure you provide the best care to your pet.