Interferon Alpha for Cats

Interferon alpha is a drug that may be used in cats to manage conditions such as the FeLV, infectious peritonitis or FVH. Interferons are substances that are formed in the body when the immune system detects the presence of viruses. The interferons may neutralize these foreign bodies, but in some cases, the cat will need additional supplementation of interferon. Interferon alpha will not treat fatal cases of infectious peritonitis or FIV, but will improve the pet’s life quality.

Uses of Interferon Alpha

Interferon alpha can be used in cats that are affected by the following viruses:

  • FeLV, the leukemia virus, which is a retrovirus that may be fatal
  • FIV, the immunodeficiency virus, which weakens the immune system and makes the cat vulnerable to diseases and infections
  • FIP, infectious peritonitis caused by a mutation of the corona virus and may also be fatal
  • FHV -1, the viral rhinotracheitis, which is a respiratory infection caused by the herpes virus 1 and may also be deadly in kittens

In addition, vets may use interferon alpha to treat some skin conditions that cannot be treated with other solutions. These may include:

  • Skin ulcers
  • Idiopathic rashes
  • Fungal infections

Effects of Interferon Alpha

Even if interferon alpha is used in conditions that are typically fatal, the administration of the drug will be beneficial and prolong the lifespan of the pet. However, the drugs didn’t prove to reduce the amount of viruses in the body. Most vets will use the interferon alpha pills to improve the pet’s life quality.

When used for skin conditions, the drugs can eliminate the symptoms.

Side Effects of Interferon Alpha

Interferon alpha may have some side effects such as:

  • Flu like symptoms such as sneezing and breathing difficulties
  • Elevated fever
  • The suppression of the bone marrow, in rare cases
  • Allergic reaction, including skin rashes, but only in rare cases

These symptoms are not typically met in cats that receive the interferon alpha treatment for a reduced period of time (i.e. between 2 and 4 weeks).

The drug has been formulated for use in humans, but it may be prescribed by some vets as an extra label drug for felines.

Contraindications and Drug Interactions

Interferon alpha shouldn’t be used in pets that have been diagnosed with:

  • An autoimmune disease
  • Heart disease
  • Lung problems
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Severe allergies to interferon alpha

The use of interferon alpha may be limited in some cats. Some felines can develop immunity to the drugs within 8 weeks of treatment. This means that the cat will no longer react to the drugs and these will be ineffective.

The ingredients of the interferon pills may also interact with zidovudine or acyclovir, which will have improved anti viral effects.

Interferon alpha should not be combined with vidarabine, also an antiviral, as the combination may be toxic for felines.