Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a virus which can cause a serious and potentially fatal disease by depressing the immune system of an infected cat. Australia has one of the highest rates of FIV infection in the world, with a recent study showing that 15% of cats with outdoor access (more than one in seven) tested positive for FIV.
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
How is it transmitted?
The virus is present in the saliva of infected cats and the most common way for a cat to be infected is by being bitten during a cat fight – cats like to have their own territory and it is common for them to squabble over boundaries. Although uncommon, it is also possible for an infected female cat to pass on the infection to her kittens during pregnancy.
How is it diagnosed?
- Diagnosis is by blood testing
- It can take up to 3 months after infection to be able to detect FIV infection on blood tests.
- Shortly after infection an infected cat may show signs such as a fever, lethargy and swollen lymph nodes
- As the disease progresses, signs which may develop include chronic gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), secondary infections of the skin, gut or respiratory tract (with bacteria, other viruses or parasites), and weight loss
- In some cats infected with FIV, the immune system becomes too weak to fight off other infections and disease, resulting in death.
- FIV has also been shown to increase the risk of lymphoma, a type of cancer.
- Cats with outdoor access
- Cats which haven’t been desexed as they are more prone to fighting
- Cats living with infected cats
- Stray or feral cats in the area.
- Treatment involves management of any secondary diseases which develop
- There is no cure for feline immunodeficiency virus.
- FIV can be prevented by stopping cats coming into contact with FIV positive cats i.e. by keeping them exclusively indoors
- For cats with any outdoor access, or those living with an FIV infected cat, an FIV vaccine is available.
Westman et al (2016). Seroprevalence of feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukaemia virus in Australia: risk factors for infection and geographical influences (2011–2013). Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.