Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), also called Feline AIDS, is an often-misunderstood condition.
FIV is a viral infection that affects a cat’s immune system, similar to how Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) affects humans. While FIV is often called Feline AIDS due to its impact on the immune system, it’s important to note that it’s not the same as AIDS in humans. FIV weakens a cat’s immune system, making them more susceptible to infections and other health problems.
If you have a cat that spends time outside, it’s important that you understand how FIV is spread, the key symptoms and most importantly, how to prevent your cat from catching FIV.
How FIV is spread
FIV is primarily spread through bite wounds, often during territorial disputes or cat fights. It can also be transmitted from an infected mother cat to her kittens during birth or through milk. This is one reason why it’s important to keep your cat indoors or supervised in a safe outdoor environment to reduce the risk of exposure.
FIV is not easily spread through casual, non-aggressive contact, so cats in households who don’t fight are at little risk of catching or spreading FIV.
Identifying FIV in its early stages can significantly impact the management of the disease, however, some cats may not display symptoms for some time.
Common symptoms include:
- Recurring infections
- Weight loss
- Dental issues
At Moorabbin Veterinary Hospital we can diagnose FIV through blood tests, which detect antibodies produced in response to the virus.
How to care for a cat with FIV
While there’s no cure for FIV, recent studies suggest that cats with FIV typically live average life spans if provided with the proper level of care. This includes ensuring they have a nutritious diet, regular veterinary check-ups, regular dental cleans, and a stress-free environment. It’s also essential to promptly treat any illnesses or infections they may develop, as their compromised immune system makes them more vulnerable.
Prevention is crucial
The best way to ensure your cat doesn’t catch FIV is to keep them indoors to avoid exposure to infected cats. If your cat does spend time outside, there is a FIV vaccination available which can reduce the risk of infection. Discuss this with your veterinarian when you next visit our vet hospital to determine whether this vaccination suits your cat based on their lifestyle and risk factors. While we are currently experiencing stock shortages of this vaccine due to world-wide supply issue, we expect to have the vaccine in stock in early 2024.
Need some veterinary advice?
The Moorabbin Veterinary Hospital team is here to provide guidance, support, and the best care for your cats, especially when dealing with life-long conditions like FIV.
If you have any concerns or need advice on protecting your cats from FIV, don’t hesitate to contact us. You can book an appointment online, or call us on 03 9555 4808.