Feline Leukemia is a very contagious, extremely serious viral disease that affects outdoor cats and is most common in situations where multiple cats are in close contact with each other. Feral cat colonies and catteries are at the highest risk.
Because of the devastating nature of the disease and the fact that almost all cats who contract the virus will die within 3-5 years it is very important to vaccinate your cat for FeLV if they go outdoors or have contact with other cats who go outdoors. Even if you do not see other cats in the area where your cat frequents outside it is still recommended that they are vaccinated. Stray or feral cats are often very shy and can live outdoors in your neighborhood without ever being seen. These are the type of cats that present the biggest risk to your pet.
If you do not have your cat vaccinated and they happen to come in close contact with a cat who is infected with FeLV they will likely contract the virus. Mutual grooming, fighting, mating and sharing food/water bowls and litter boxes are the most common means of transmission. If your cat does happen to contract FeLV, the disease must be diagnosed through a blood test that is run in the clinic. If the test is positive for the virus there is no specific treatment for the disease. Symptomatic treatment for various immune-related issues ranging from infections to cancers are usually employed to keep your cat comfortable. Although a small percentage of cats will clear the infection, most will remain affected for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, FeLV is a fatal and incurable disease- making it incredibly important for you to do everything possible to prevent your cat from contracting it.
The current feline leukemia vaccinations are very safe for your cat. The initial vaccine should be boostered 3-4 weeks after it is given. After that initial series the vaccination should be given once yearly for as long as your cat is exposed to the disease. There are some feline leukemia vaccines on the market that are approved for 2 years. The vaccine is given under the skin (subcutaneously) like almost all other feline vaccines. Although most cats do not have a problem after vaccination the most common reactions we see are irritation at the injection site, mild allergic reaction or slight lethargy lasting 2-3 days.
If you have any questions regarding vaccinating your cat for Feline Leukemia Virus or any other questions please do not hesitate to contact River Road Veterinary Clinic.