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Feline Leukemia Virus
Viral leukemia in cats is a prevalent, highly transmissible, and potentially life threatening disease. Though recognized since the early 1960's, current medical technology offers no cure for infected cats. Several effective prophylactic (preventive) vaccines have been developed.
Feline viral leukemia (FeLV) can express itself in one or a combination of different forms involving various internal systems. Blood cell cancers, bone marrow suppression, and production of tumors involving intestines, kidneys, lymph nodes or other organs are common consequences of the virus. Closely "associated" disease processes include recurrent respiratory infections, central nervous system diseases, and reproductive problems. Some cats can live with the virus for years and show no symptoms. These "carriers" can still pass the infection to other cats.
FeLV is most commonly passed from cat to cat by direct contact. The virus is found in saliva, respiratory secretions, urine, feces and blood, providing great opportunity for transmission. The virus can survive when off the feline host, but for only a very limited time (hours at most). Therefore, object transmission is unlikely. It is possible, however, that virus-infected blood may be passed through carriers such as fleas and ticks. Feline leukemia virus has not been proven to be a zoonotic disease (one that can be transmitted from pets to humans). Identification of FeLV-infected cats is traditionally achieved through blood testing.
Vaccination of cats against feline leukemia is now widely accepted and highly recommended. It is performed safely and routinely on both indoor and outdoor cats of nine weeks minimum age. The initial vaccine protocol is a series of two injections. The first injection is followed in three to four weeks by the second. An annual booster is given to maintain protection. If your cat or kitten has not yet received the leukemia series we urge you to do so at your earliest convenience. We strongly recommend that a blood test be done to determine presence or absence of the virus before the vaccine is administered.