Diagnosing Feline Immunodeficiency Virus Infection

Feline immunodeficiency virus, or FIV, is the cause of feline AIDS. It is an exceedingly common and serious medical condition that affects both domestic and wild cats. FIV can be diagnosed through a variety of means, but it's crucial that you recognize the symptoms and causes of FIV and feline AIDS in order to protect your cat and provide him with adequate medical care.

Feline immunodeficiency virus is not as severe as the human and simian varieties of the disease. In fact, cats that suffer from FIV may live relatively normal and healthy lives with the proper treatment. Another primary difference between the feline and human strains is that an effective vaccine against FIV exists at this time.

Symptoms of FIV

Depending upon the stage and progression of the virus, FIV presents the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Depressed mood
  • Lowered immune function

The most dangerous effect of FIV is the reduced immune system functionality. Cats that suffer from FIV or feline AIDS are increasingly susceptible to diseases like dermatitis, conjunctivitis, periodontitis and other conditions. Due to the range of conditions that are associated with FIV, it can be difficult to recognize the virus. If your cat seems to be chronically or frequently ill with one or more conditions, be aware that FIV is a potential cause.

Testing for and Diagnosing FIV

There is a reliable test for the antibody that a cat's body produces in the presence of FIV. This examination can be administered in a short period of time with a simple blood test. However, the test is only capable of identifying the antibody against FIV, not the disease itself. As a result, cats that test positive for the antibody may or may not suffer from the disease. In other cases, they are non-affected carriers.

A false positive occurs in FIV testing when the antibody is present without the virus itself. Most often, this occurs when the test is administered to young kittens, which retain the antibody from their mother's milk. Cats that have been vaccinated against feline immunodeficiency virus will test positive in the antibody exam, due to the presence of antibodies in their system. These cats are not affected by the disease either.

A positive result to the FIV antibody test does not warrant immediate medical action. However, it does suggest that further examinations should be conducted. Typically, a veterinarian will make a positive diagnosis of FIV or feline AIDS following a positive result to the antibody test, and substantial evidence from the pet's medical history.

Take care to protect your cats against FIV. Kittens should be vaccinated against the disease, and booster shots are available at most veterinary offices. Consult with your vet for the proper vaccination schedule for your cat. If you suspect that your pet has FIV or feline AIDS, take the necessary precautions to separate him from other potential victims. Your veterinarian can provide you with treatment and disease management options.