Russell Veterinary Hospital, P.C.‚ÄčLakeside Veterinary Medicine

"All Creatures Great and Small..."



        FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus)
       



FIV is a virus that infects cats.  Outdoor, male cats that tend to fight are particularly prone to infection.  This virus has been found in cats all across the country.  In our area, there are a fair number of infected cats, especially in the stray cat population.

 Transmission

The primary mode of transmission of the FIV virus is through saliva.  Therefore, bite wounds are a common source of infection.  The virus can also be transmitted sexually, and a pregnant cat can transmit the virus to her kittens.  However, these are less common modes of transmission than through bite wounds.


Clinical Signs

The FIV virus suppresses the immune system of an infected cat.  Therefore, the cat cannot build a good immune response to any source of infection.  This can lead to a variety of clinical signs including, inflammation of the gums and mouth, weight loss, poor appetite, fever, conjunctivitis, swollen lymph nodes, vomiting, and diarrhea.


Diagnosis

There is a blood test, which also tests for Felv (Feline Leukemia Virus).  This test requires a small amount of blood, and takes about 20 minutes to run.  We recommend testing for both viruses after 12 weeks of age.   It is very important to test any cat that has been outdoors, or exposed to any cat that is outdoors before bringing that cat into your household.  This is especially important if you already have cats that may possibly become infected from the new cat.


Treatment/Prognosis

There is no specific treatment for FIV.  Symptomatic care is really the only option.   If you have an FIV positive cat, it is important to keep that cat indoors only and separate from any other cats in the house that are not infected.  FIV positive cats can actually live for many years without any problems, but they will eventually succumb to the disease.


Prevention

The best way to prevent your cat from contracting the FIV virus is to prevent contact with any other cats.  Therefore, keeping your cat indoors at all times would negate any chance of becoming infected.   As mentioned earlier, it is also recommended that every new cat being brought into the household be tested first.

 

Resources:
Guptill, Lynn.  VCS 506.  Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. 2006