Feline Leukemia

by: Dr. Antonio Lombeida from Oswego Animal Hospital

Carlos is an eight year old neutered domestic medium haired cat. He has enjoys the rich life of an indoor cat. On a recent routine exam Carlos appeared in good health and routine blood screening was performed to monitor his organ function due to his age. The organ related chemistry tests were normal, but he did test positive for feline leukemia.

Feline leukemia virus is a very contagious virus and cats can contract the virus from minimal contact with other infected cats. Even though Carlos is not showing any clinical signs of the disease currently, he will need to be retested to verify the findings and possibly have his blood monitored for any changes to his blood cell counts. Currently there are no treatment protocols or cure for feline leukemia. Proliferative and degenerative diseases may occur in any of the tissues invaded by the virus, making the possible clinical signs variable. The virus may be indirectly responsible for other illnesses because of its immunosuppressive effect as well. A large percentage of the cats that are exposed to the virus will have latent (hidden) infections and will be capable of transmitting the disease in saliva, tears, and urine. Some of these latent carriers will become clinically ill when stressed. Most patients are treated for their symptoms, not their disease.

Upon further discussion it was noted by the owner that in the summer Carlos did “sneak” out the back door on occasion and would stay outside for an hour or two before returning inside. This is most likely how he contracted the virus. Even if your pet is 99% indoor it is always recommended that he or she be vaccinated for feline leukemia for the instance where their curiosity lures them outside.