Matamata Veterinary Services | Latest News

Latest News

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

May 23, 2012

What is feline AIDS
Feline Aids is caused by infection with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). FIV causes a potentially fatal viral disease that interferes with the immune system of a cat. The virus lives in the blood of the infected cat and is carried in its system throughout its life. Infected cats may expose healthy cats with which they come in contact, mostly by biting.

Cats infected with FIV may remain healthy for up to 10 years. While some infected cats show no sign of the disease, others may display initial symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Lethargy
  • Swollen Lymph nodes

As the disease progresses, symptoms may occur such as:

  • Weight loss
  • Sores in and around the mouth
  • Eye lesions
  • Poor coat
  • Chronic infections

Eventually the immune system becomes too weak to fight off other infections or diseases. As a result, the cat will die from one of these subsequent infections.

How prevalent is feline AIDS?
It is reported that between 14% and 29% of cats in New Zealand test positive to the disease.

How is the disease contracted?
FIV is spread from cat to cat primarily through bite wounds, the virus being shed in high levels through saliva. Cats with outside access are at risk of contracting the disease due the territorial nature and fighting that occurs. The spread of FIV through watering bowls or grooming is unlikely. An actual bite wound is an integral part of the disease transmission. Although rare it is possible for a mother to pass the infection on to her unborn foetus. Even though the feline virus is related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), no human has ever been reported to be infected with FIV.

What can I do to prevent feline AIDS?
Keeping your cat indoors and away from other cats will prevent infection, however most of our New Zealand cats love to go outside and are therefore at risk.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent the disease in at-risk cats. There is no treatment or cure for an FIV infected cat. A vaccine is available that can aid in the prevention of infection by FIV.

The vaccination course requires 3 injections 2-4 weeks apart, and then an annual booster shot is needed to ensure adequate immunity. Vaccination can start as young as 8 weeks.

If you are looking to start vaccination in an older cat that could have been in a fight or bitten by other unknown status cats then a blood test prior to vaccination is warranted.

Please don’t hesitate to call us for any further information or to book your cat in for the vaccination course.