Diagnosing Feline Leukemia with the ELISA Test

The feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is similar to the feline AIDS virus (FIV), and is an immune system suppressor virus. The disease caused by the virus is fatal, but a cat with leukemia can get support therapy. The virus can be prevented with the FeLV vaccine, which is recommended for all kittens. Diagnosing feline leukemia can be done through the ELISA test.

ELISA Testing for Feline Leukemia

The ELISA test, also known as the EIA or the enzyme linked immunosorbent assay, is a test that is commonly used to detect immune diseases. The result of an ELISA test will either be negative or positive. If the ELISA test is negative, this means that the cat is not infected with the virus.

The test requires a blood sample, and will test the presence of a certain antigen or antibody.

In case of leukemia, the ELISA test will detect the presence of the leukemia viral antigen. This antigen is recognized by the cat's system as a foreign body and will cause an immune response. A cat that is vaccinated with the FeLV shot will not show a false positive response; the test will be positive only if the virus is present in the body.

Other Uses of ELISA

ELISA can be used to determine allergies or the presence of FIV. It can also be performed in toxicology, to determine the composition of certain classes of drugs.

Symptoms of Feline Leukemia

The initial symptoms of an infected cat include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Stomatitis
  • Behavioral changes

The cat will also develop different infections and diseases more often than before, as the virus attacks his immune system.

Support Therapy for Cats with Leukemia

Feline leukemia cannot be treated, but managing the secondary infection is crucial to prolong the cat's life. The leukemia virus will weaken the cat's immune system, so the cat will be more susceptible to viruses and diseases such as infectious peritonitis, panleukopenia or distemper, respiratory infections or urinary tract infections. These secondary infections can be fatal. Cats with leukemia usually die of a secondary infection or cancer. Try to prevent these infections by keeping your cat indoors and offering him warmth and comfort.

A cat infected with leukemia virus will get a prescription diet, extra vitamins and minerals. Wet food is recommended for felines with leukemia to protect the kidneys and facilitate digestion. A vet will be able to prescribe a proper diet, according to the secondary infections of the cat.

Preventing Cat Leukemia

Feline leukemia can be transmitted from an infected cat, so in case your cat carries the virus, keep him isolated from the other pets in your home. The virus can be transmitted though saliva or urine, and a cat can get the virus even by sharing the same drinking bowl with an infected feline. Feline leukemia cannot be transmitted to humans.

Testing your cat for leukemia using the enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test is beneficial, as you can start supportive care as soon as possible. Offering medical help in a timely manner to a cat with leukemia can prolong the pet's life, and give him a quality time.