Symptoms of Feline Leukemia

Feline leukemia symptoms may not appear until months or years after your cat has become infected. Feline leukemia is a type of cat cancer caused by the feline leukemia virus, which damages your cat's immune system and can make him vulnerable to a host of other diseases, immunodeficiency problems and cancers. Here is a guide to the symptoms of feline leukemia.

Exposure and Infection

Feline leukemia spreads through contact with saliva, and most cats catch it through mutual grooming practices. It can also be spread through tears, urine and feces. Some cats may be exposed to the virus without contacting it due to a low level of exposure and/or a stong immune system.

Cats who do contract the illness may begin to show symptoms two to four weeks later, during the acute stage of the disease. These symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Some cats may develop a latent or regressed infection in which they show no further symptoms and are not contagious. Other cats will become persistently infected, continuing to show symptoms and be contagious to other cats.

Secondary Conditions and Their Symptoms

Because it is an autoimmune disorder, feline leukemia can lead to a host of secondary infections and conditions. These secondary conditions can include:

  • Anemia
  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Reproductive disorders
  • Neurological disorders
  • Platelet disorders
  • Lymphadenopathy
  • Cancer
  • Respiratory and eye disorders
  • Oral diseases
  • Immunodeficiency and immune-mediated disorders

Symptoms that may result from feline leukemia and associated conditions include:

  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Chronic and recurrent infections
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Pale gums
  • Difficulty breathing

However, because feline leukemia causes immunodeficiency, which leads to increased susceptibility to infections of every type, symptoms of feline leukemia infection could include any health problems at all. If your cat appears excessively and constantly ill, he may be suffering from feline leukemia.

Loss of appetite, fever, weakness and weight loss are usually the first signs of feline leukemia.

Preventing and Managing Leukemia

Luckily feline leukemia can be prevented by vaccine. This vaccine is especially important if your cat comes into contact with other cats, as feline leukemia is very contagious.

Veterinarians manage feline leukemia symptoms by treating secondary infections and conditions associated with the disease. Your vet will tailor a treatment program of vaccination protocols, diet, preventative care and medication specifically suited to your cat's needs.

Cat chemo may be necessary if your cat is suffering from cancer associated with feline leukemia.