Felv Testing And Diagnosis
Because this disease is highly contagious and infection comes with serious health consequences, the AAFP recommends that cats should be tested when they are:
- Sick, regardless of age, despite previous negative test results or vaccination
- About to be adopted or brought into a new home, regardless of age
- At risk of exposure even if their most recent test was negative
- If their FeLV status is unknown
- About to be vaccinated against FeLV or FIV
Testing is done using a small blood sample. The first test is typically used as a screening tool and can be performed at your veterinary clinic with results in as little as 20 minutes. A negative result from the first screening test is highly reliable. However, if the result is positive, the next step is to have a confirmatory test done by an outside laboratory, which takes a couple of days.
FeLV can usually be detected in the blood within 30 days of exposure . If your cat tests negative, but they could have been exposed to FeLV less than 30 days ago, your veterinarian will likely want to repeat the test at least 30 days after their last potential exposure.
Felv Diagnostic Tests And Interpretation
A variety of tests are available to diagnose FeLV, and it is important to understand what the results signify to determine a prognosis and management plan for an infected cat. The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends screening all cats for FeLV at any of the points listed in BOX 1.
- At time of acquisition
- Before introducing a new cat to an environment
- To diagnose potential FeLV shedders in a multicat environment
Most point-of-care tests are based on enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or rapid immunomigration methodologies. If a cat tests positive on a POC test, additional testing is recommended, particularly if the cat is considered at low risk for infection. Repeated testing may be needed to determine if a cat has progressive or regressive infection.1 A cat with a regressive infection will generally no longer test positive on a POC test within 12 weeks of exposure to FeLV.
An FeLV provirus DNA polymerase chain reaction test can be done to confirm a positive POC test or to help differentiate between progressive and regressive infection. Cats with regressive, abortive, or focal infections usually have high levels of anti-FeLV antibodies.3 Neither maternal antibodies nor FeLV vaccines interfere with POC screening tests, although a blood sample collected immediately after FeLV vaccine administration may contain FeLV antigen from the vaccine itself therefore, blood samples should be collected before vaccination.5
How Can My Cat Get Feline Leukemia
FeLV is transmitted from other infected cats “shedding” the virus a time when the virus is replicating in the body and released into the environment through their saliva, nasal secretions, urine, feces, and milk. This means cat-to-cat transfer may occur during grooming, through bite wounds, and even by simply sharing feeding dishes and litter boxes. It can also be transmitted from infected mother cats to their kittens while still in the womb or nursing.
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Felv Vaccine Types And Efficacy
Several types of FeLV vaccines are available , but their relative efficacy remains controversial. Inactivated vaccines contain a killed version of FeLV, so the virus cannot replicate in the host. They contain adjuvants that help to promote an adequate immune response. Adjuvants have been implicated in adverse reactions, though the evidence is mixed.6 Recombinant vaccines encode a part of an immunogenic FeLV antigen that undergoes limited replication in the host and stimulates a protective immune response. They may trigger a more rapid onset of immunity, and they do not contain adjuvant. Conflicting evidence in the literature regarding the efficacy and safety of inactivated versus recombinant vaccines makes it difficult to recommend one type over the other.6
- Adjuvanted inactivated whole virus vaccine
- Recombinant subunit vaccine
- Genetically engineered subunit recombinant canarypox vector vaccine
Duration of immunity is also difficult to know. Several studies have shown that the DOI is at least 12 months, and in many cases, it is 24 to 36 months.1,5
All cats should be tested before vaccination. There is no benefit to vaccinating cats that have FeLV, and unnecessary vaccinations carry risk. If a vaccinated cats status is unknown before immunization and the cat later develops a progressive infection, the vaccines efficacy could be inappropriately questioned and vaccine failure may be incorrectly assumed.1
Felv Tests Can Provide False Positives Or Inconclusive Results:
- A cat in the initial stage of FeLV infection may test negative for FeLV even if they are infected. A cat exposed to FeLV may test positive during the transient phase of the infection and then test negative if the virus is overcome. Overall, results can be shaky and difficult to trust.
- In general, FeLV tests are not 100 percent accurate and can yield false positive results.
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How Does Feline Leukemia Spread From Cat To Cat
Feline leukemia is transmitted from cat to cat during close social contact.
FeLV transmission generally takes place during close social contact between infected and uninfected, unvaccinated cats. The virus is shed principally in saliva, but it is also present in blood, urine, faeces, tears and nasal secretions, as well as in the milk of infected mothers.
The virus is primarily passed on by oral or nasal exposure to viral particles, but it can also be spread via bite wounds. Common methods of transmission include food and water dishes, shared litterboxes, and mutual grooming between cats that are affectionate to one another.
How Common Is Felv
FeLV infection is found worldwide. In general, around 1-2% of the cat population is persistently infected with this virus, and many more are exposed. The number of cats infected differs according to the geographical location, environment, and the lifestyle of the cat. Infection is more common in colonies of cats where there is close contact between individuals.
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Detection Of Free P27 Antigen Using Elisa
The first p27 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays were based on polyclonal antibodies. Such tests had the advantage of allowing quantitation of p27 but had a tendency to produce false-positive results as the antibodies did not only detect viral proteins but occasionally also non-viral components .
Improved ELISA based on monoclonal antibodies to p27 were introduced later to detect p27 capsid protein of FeLV present in blood or serum . This assay utilises a single monoclonal antibody specific for an epitope of p27 fixed to a solid phase. The serum sample to be tested is mixed with one or two additional monoclonal antibodies specific for epitopes B and C of p27, and the mixture is then added to the solid phase. Hence the presence of p27 leads to insolubilisation of the enzyme-conjugated antibodies and the resulting colour change is indicative for the presence of p27, a marker of progressive infection or of transient viremia in some cats with the regressive form of infection during the early phase. ELISA procedures have the advantage of high diagnostic sensitivity and specificity.
Applying Eye Drops To Cats
The proper administration of eye medication is critical in helping your cat quickly recover from an eye injury or infection. Gently clean away any debris around your cat’s eyes with warm water and a washcloth. Hold the bottle using the thumb and index finger of your dominant hand with the tip pointed downwards. Use the last two fingers of the same hand to pull back the upper eyelid. Place your remaining fingers under the cat’s jaw to support the head. The lower eyelid will act as a pouch to receive the drops. DO NOT touch the eye’s surface with the applicator. Aiming for the center of the eye, squeeze the desired number of drops onto the eyeball.
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Should A Cat With Feline Leukemia Be Put Down
Most vets agree it is better to humanely euthanize a leukemia positive cat and not to have it die of the illness, said Ryan Epple, owner of Harmony Animal Hospital. Epple said cats diagnosed with feline leukemia are euthanized instead of being released back into the community due to the risk of infecting other cats.
Background Epidemiology And Pathogenesis
Feline injection site sarcomas have been recognized since the early 1990s. Contemporaneous with the implementation of stricter vaccination recommendations and the development of adjuvanted killed rabies and feline leukemia virus vaccines, pathologists at the University of Pennsylvania began recognizing an increase in the incidence of vaccine reactions. More importantly, they also noted an increase in the development of sarcomas at vaccination sites., Over the past 2 decades, this problem has been recognized worldwide.
Subsequent investigation into the etiopathogenesis of FISS has led to the hypothesis that these tumors are induced secondary to a chronic and robust inflammatory response to the vaccine or injection, with ultimate malignant transformation of surrounding fibroblasts and myofibroblasts., This theory is supported by the characteristic histological appearance of FISS, which includes the presence of increased numbers of inflammatory cells , multinucleated giant cells, central areas of necrosis, and in some cases, a grayish-blue material within macrophages, consistent with aluminum-based vaccine adjuvant.,,,, While the exact cause and effect have not been entirely elucidated, it has been widely theorized that the individual cats inflammatory response mounted and the characteristics of the vaccine play roles in the development of these tumors.,,,
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Felv Exposure And Transmission
FeLV is an enveloped virus with a single-stranded RNA genome that uses reverse transcriptase to convert the viral RNA genome into a DNA form. The DNA form is then integrated into the hosts cells by the enzyme integrase. This integrated DNA is known as the provirus.3
Primary transmission of FeLV is through salivary shedding, although it can also be found in urine, feces, and milk. FeLV is not stable in the environment, so transmission is generally through communal contact between cats who are socially friendly, groom each other, and share resources, or aggressive interactions between cats that result in bite wounds. In addition to horizontal transmission, FeLV can be transmitted vertically from an infected queen to her kittens. The virus may also be spread via blood transfusions.
Male cats, as well as cats that live outdoors or are intact, are at a higher risk for exposure. FeLV infection is much more prevalent in sick cats, and if healthy cats are eliminated from survey results, the prevalence of FeLV increases to 38%.3
How Often Does My Cat Need Vaccinating
To provide lasting immunity, your cat will need an initial course of 2 injections, 3-4 weeks apart. These can be given from 9 weeks of age in kittens. As immunity wanes over time, re-vaccination will be required. The most common current UK vaccination protocol is to vaccinate against leukaemia every 3 years, but this may vary based on your cats lifestyle. Other cat diseases such as feline flu and enteritis also require repeat vaccination, the frequency of which varies based on their risk and the vaccine used.
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Treatment For Feline Leukemia Virus
Eighty-five percent of cats persistently infected with feline leukemia virus die within three years of diagnosis. However, regular veterinary check-ups and good preventive health care can help keep these cats feeling well for some time and help protect them from secondary infection. Twice-yearly physical examinations, laboratory testing, and parasite control can prevent complications and identify problems quickly. All FeLV infected cats should be kept indoors and be neutered.
There is presently no cure for FeLV infection. Secondary infections can be treated as they appear, and cats with cancer can receive chemotherapy. However, the prognosis is grave for cats with bone marrow compromise or widespread lymphoma.
Pet Insurance And Felv
Pet insurance can help you manage the costs of treating a cat with FeLV. Those costs can rise quickly, especially if hospitalization, chemotherapy, and other advanced treatments are needed. One ASPCA Pet Health Insurance customer filed a claim for more than $1,765 for an infected cat.* You can also get reimbursed for screenings, vaccines, and annual visits if you add preventive care coverage at a low additional cost.
Dont wait until your cat is sickget a free quote now!
*Internal Claims Data, 2016
*Pre-existing conditions are not covered. Waiting periods, annual deductible, co-insurance, benefit limits and exclusions may apply. For all terms and conditions visit www.aspcapetinsurance.com/terms. Preventive and Wellness Care reimbursements are based on a schedule. Complete Coverage reimbursements are based on the invoice. Levels 1-4 reimbursements are based on usual and customary eligible costs. Products, schedules, and rates may vary and are subject to change. Discounts may vary and are subject to change. More information available at checkout.
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How Long Can I Expect My Felv
It is impossible to predict the life span of any cat, regardless of their current health status. Cats with a regressive FeLV infection can remain healthy for many years. The administration of drugs that suppress the immune system, or illnesses that compromise the immune system, can rarely cause reactivation of the virus to progressive infection in some cats. Cats with progressive infection have a higher risk of developing a life-threatening illness, which can appear as soon as the first few years after infection. FeLV most often causes illness by damaging the immune system, putting cats at risk of opportunistic infections and certain types of cancer. While there is no cure for FeLV infection, supportive care for illnesses caused by FeLV can improve the cats length and quality of life.
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How Is Felv Managed
Although there is no known cure for FeLV, supportive care can improve the quality of life, health, and longevity of cats with FeLV. An infected cat may live free of FeLV-related disease for her entire lifetime. Any secondary infections and diseases can be treated as they occur.
Some recommendations for supportive care include:
- Minimizing stress. Consider products like FELIWAY®, which mimics a cats natural calming pheromones.
- Feeding em the good stuff. Make sure your cat is getting good nutrition and consult with a veterinarian to determine the healthiest possible food.
- Being vigilant. Promptly taking cats to the veterinarian when they appear ill is especially important for cats with FeLV. Their weakened immune systems can cause them to contract other diseases or infections more easily. If you watch closely and get them immediate treatment, you can better protect them.
- Staying up to date. Keep up with the latest information on FeLV in case new treatments or diagnostic developments emerge.
- Seeking support. Ask for help from fellow caregivers caring for cats with FeLV. You may have someone in your area with lots of experience and helpful advice. Try reaching out to our Feral Friends Network members near you.
What Is Feline Leukemia Virus
Feline leukemia virus is a virus that infects only cats. FeLV depresses the immune system and tends to lead to persistent infection. FeLV is an important cause of anemia in cats and can cause cancers of several types. It is found worldwide and is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids. There is no treatment to eliminate the FeLV virus from the body, and the disease is ultimately fatal. Therefore, preventing infection with FeLV through vaccination is highly recommended. For further details on this important disease, see the handout “Feline Leukemia Virus Disease Complex”.
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Is The Feline Leukemia Vaccine Necessary
Feline leukemia virus infection cannot be passed on indirectly in the same way as other viruses: close contact with other cats is needed for viral transmission. For this reason, FeLV is regarded as a non-core vaccine by authorities such as WSAVA and the American Association of Feline Practitioners. However, to be safe, FeLV vaccination is highly recommended for all kittens in the United States under the AAFP vaccination guidelines, while booster inoculations are only recommended in adult cats considered to be at high risk of exposure such as outdoor cats, or a new cat entering a cat household that includes FeLV positive cats.
Is There A Cure
Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition, and the cats life will typically be shortened due to it. However, how much the disease will impact the cat is hard to predict. Some will live with the condition for years. Once a cat becomes infected, it must be kept separate from other cats. It can not be allowed to wander freely outside and should stay inside the house.
While there is no cure, there are multiple ways that you can prolong a cats chances when they have been diagnosed with this disease. These cats should be:
Kept indoors and away from other cats
Kept on a strict diet without raw meat or eggs
Have regular checkups with their vet
Seek veterinary care at first sign of an illness
Kept up-to-date on vaccines
Have regular fecal tests and deworming
Remember, cats with FeLV are more prone to developing other illnesses so you must do what you can to protect the state of their health.
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