Facts, information and answers about FIV, feline immunodeficiency virus

Facts, information and answers about FIV, feline immunodeficiency virus

  leopardFIV infects all cats from leopards and lions to domestic house cats. Most at risk for infection are male non-castrated, outdoor cats that often get in fights with other cats. The virus is spread from cat to cat by inoculation of virus from the infected cat into the blood of an uninfected cat. FIV is at very high levels in the saliva of infected cats so when they bite opponents during a fight they spread the virus.

The most common clinical signs of FIV
infection are: lion gums

  1. oral cavity disease such as severe gingivitis or periodontitis
  2. upper respiratory disease (runny nose, coughing)
  3. gastrointestinal disease (diarrhea)
  4. skin disease (pyoderma or rough coat)
FIV often requires a long time (years) to cause clinical signs and cats can live for many years with some lifestyle changes.

neutered catIf you suspect your cat has FIV, the first step is to take your cat to the veterinarian and have the cat's blood tested for the presence of antibody to FIV. Many veterinarians have FIV Rapid Test kits at their clinic and can have initial results for you in 30 minutes or less. If the initial FIV screening test comes up positive, the next step is to send a sample of your cat's blood to a reference diagnostic laboratory for a confirmation test. If you get a positive back on the confirmation test you will have to decide to make some lifestyle changes for your cat and most likely yourselves.

neutered, indoor catFIV infected cats present a potential risk to other cats so the first thing to do is to make sure your FIV cat becomes strictly an indoor cat. This will benefit your neighbors' cats but it will also help your cat. By reducing the stress on your cat's immune system (no more fights, no more defending territory, routine mealtime with healthy food, less exposure to other viruses and bacteria) your cat will actually live longer and healthier. I know of cats that have lived long, (8 to 12 years) relatively healthy lives after being diagnosed with FIV. To my knowledge, there is no specific treatment for FIV--just treat your cats symptomatically as problems occur. At the present time there are no effective vaccines available.

tiger kickI hope this information is helpful. If you still have questions please contact your veterinarian. Free veterinary advice on the web is available from Dr. Sue at www.vme.net/dvm/DrSue.

                      VME, Inc.

Dr Sue Homepage
Dr Sue Homepage
Photos and HTML coding by G. Richard Yamagata, PhD.
Copyright © 2000 Virtual Market Enterprises.
The information contained in this FAQ is owned by VME and DCN.
Contact your veterinarian for the latest information about FIV.
Return to FAQ
Vet's Oath