FIV, also known as Feline AIDs, is a virus that infects cats and destroys the immune system. Like HIV in humans, cats infected with FIV are susceptible to infection, usually harmless insects can cause severe illness, and the virus can also increase the risk of some types of cancer. Unfortunately, there is no cure for FIV – once cats are infected, they will carry the virus for life, although it can take several years for any symptoms to appear.
Nina Downing, PDSA veterinary nurse, said: “FIV can be a life-limiting condition, as it affects the immune response of cats, making it difficult for them to deal with infections that they could otherwise fight off. It is important for cat owners to understand how they can prevent infecting individuals At the same time, owners also need to be able to detect symptoms and know how to keep their young as healthy as possible if they contract the virus.
“The good news is that there are some steps you can take to make sure your beloved cat is able to continue to live a happy and healthy life.
“The best way to protect your feline friend is to reduce the risk of infection. The virus is spread through saliva, mostly through bites, so fighting cats can be at risk – one of the reasons we always recommend neutering, as whole cats are more likely to fight, Especially males.Fortunately, grooming or sharing water bowls does not appear to be a common way of transmitting the virus.
Discover the symptoms
“FIV develops slowly, so it often takes two to five years for symptoms to appear. Some symptoms can include low energy, chronic diarrhea, swollen glands, as well as oral problems such as gingivitis. If your cat has general ill health, or has been She suffers from frequent infections, these could be indicators of a problem and you should take her to the vet for a check-up.
“If you think your pet has been infected, a simple blood test by your local vet can usually diagnose FIV.
Treatment and protection
Positive cats can live asymptomatic for several years after diagnosis, but unfortunately their life expectancy may shorten once they begin to suffer from frequent illnesses. While there may be no cure, it is important that you do everything you can to protect them from infection and keep them as healthy as possible.
“It is also important to keep your feline companion indoors if they have the virus. Protecting them from other cats and outdoors will reduce the chance of infection and prevent the spread of FIV to other cats.
Diet also plays a role in protection, so you will need to feed your own high-quality food. Look for cat food labeled “complete,” as this will have the right balance of nutrients your four-legged friend needs to stay healthy. Be sure to wash any utensils and food utensils well and avoid feeding them raw meat and unpasteurized dairy products that can contain germs.
“You will also need to stay up to date with the latest worm and flea treatment, as well as appropriate vaccinations – your vet will be able to advise you on this. Regular check-ups with your vet will also be important, I recommend booking an appointment at least every six months.”
PDSA is the UK’s largest veterinary charity. We are on a mission to improve pet welfare through prevention, education, and treatment. Support from People Postcode lottery players help us reach more pet owners with tips and vital information. This winter your support is vital for vulnerable pets – find out how you can help us give pets a fighting chance at www.pdsa.org.uk/pdsa-chance