Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)


FIV is a very slow virus that can live in your cat for many years before it effects your cat's immune system.  The infection eventually leads to a state of immune deficiency that hinders the cat's ability to protect itself against other infections. The same bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi that may be found in the everyday environment - where they usually do not affect healthy animals - can cause severe illness in those with weakened immune systems. These secondary infections are responsible for many of the diseases associated with FIV. This is also what happens in human immunodeficiency virus.

How can my cat get infected?
The primary mode of transmission is through bite wounds. Thus a cat that goes out and fights with other cats, especially non de-sexed males and cats in multi-cat households are most likely to become exposed. On rare occasions infection is transmitted from an infected mother cat to her kittens, usually during passage through the birth canal or when the newborn kittens ingest infected milk. Sexual contact is of no real concern in cats.

Symptoms:
Early in  the disease, the virus moves to the lymph nodes, resulting in a generalized but usually temporary enlargement of the lymph nodes, often accompanied by fever. The owner will often not notice this stage of the disease especially in a long haired cat. Your cat may then remain quite healthy for a considerable period of time, even many years until the immune system has been destroyed enough to allow other simple infections to become serious. You may start to see any of the following:

Poor coat condition
Fever
Inflammation of the gums and mouth
Infections of the skin,
Infections of the urinary bladder
Infections of the upper respiratory tract.
Persistent diarrhoea can also be a problem
A variety of eye conditions
Slow but progressive weight loss
Various kinds of cancer may start to show
Seizures, behaviour changes and other neurological disorders may be displayed as the brain and nerve cells are destroyed


Diagnosis:
We will do a FIV blood test at our clinics in cats that are suspicious.

Negative results

A negative test result indicates that antibodies directed against FIV have not been detected, and, in most cases, this implies that the cat is not infected. Nevertheless, it takes eight to 12 weeks after infection (and sometimes even longer) before detectable levels of antibody appear, so if the test is performed during this interval, inaccurate results might be obtained. Therefore, antibody-negative cats with either an unknown or a known exposure to FIV-infected cats should be retested a minimum of 60 days after their most recent exposure in order to allow adequate time for development of antibodies.
On very rare occasions, cats in the later stages of FIV infection may test negative because their immune systems are so compromised that they no longer produce detectable levels of antibody.


When do we test your cat for FIV:

If your cat has never been tested and we are suspicious of infection
If your cat is sick with symptoms that are common to FIV, even if it tested free of infection in the past but subsequent exposure can't be ruled out
When cats are newly adopted and entering a multi- cat household
If your cat has recently been exposed to an infected cat
If you're considering vaccinating with an FIV vaccine


Vaccination:
The only sure way to protect cats is to prevent their exposure to the virus. Cat bites are the major way infection is transmitted this can only occur in multi-cat households or if your cat goes outside. In HK we see more FIV in the New Territories and outlying islands as more cats are free to roam outside. If you have a multi-cat household that is free of FIV please make sure that you only bring in new cats that are tested FIV negative.
Vaccines to help protect against FIV infection are now available. However, not all vaccinated cats will be protected by the vaccine, so preventing exposure will remain important. In addition, vaccination may have an impact on future FIV test results. It is important that you discuss the advantages and disadvantages of vaccination with your veterinarian to help you decide whether FIV vaccines should be administered to your cat. You should only need to vaccinate your cat against FIV if it is in the high risk group.

You have a FIV positive cat:

FIV-infected cats should be confined indoors to prevent the spread of FIV
FIV-infected cats should be spayed or neutered
They should be fed nutritionally complete and balanced diets to maintain general health and a strong immune system
Wellness visits for FIV-infected cats should be scheduled with us at least every six months. a physical examination of all body systems will be performed. We will pay special attention to the health of the gums, eyes, skin, and lymph nodes. Your cat's weight will be measured accurately and recorded, because weight loss is often the first sign of deterioration. A complete blood count, serum biochemical analysis, and a urine analysis should be performed annually. Your cats white cell count is meaningful to us and this generally drops as the disease progresses
Your home monitoring is important to us and you will need to let us know if there is any deterioration or changes in your cat's health and behavior
There is no evidence from controlled scientific studies to show that the drugs used for HIV in humans have any benefit to the longevity of your cat's life.Your cat may live months or years once the symptoms of FIV begin to show. You cannot catch HIV or AIDS from a cat that is infected with FIV. Although the virus is quite similar to human HIV, the virus is species specific and will only infect cats. The way the virus works to destroy the immune system is quite similar in humans and cats


Your cat may live months or years once the symptoms of FIV begin to show.

You cannot catch HIV or AIDS from a cat that is infected with FIV

Although the virus is quite similar to human HIV, the virus is species specific and will only infect cats. The way the virus works to destroy the immune system is quite similar in humans and cats.