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Leukemia in cats – Symptoms, treatment and causes of infection

Feline leukemia is a disease caused by FLVe virus (feline leukemia virus) that causes a depression of the immune system in the animal. The virus affects the white blood cells of your immune system, making the animal less defensive and more at risk of infection and other complications.

This disease is found in cats around the world, causing even the death of the animal. It is not transmitted to human beings. Keep reading this article to know everything about leukemia in cats, symptoms, treatment and causes of infection.

Causes of contagious feline leukemia

It is transmitted between cats through body fluids (saliva, blood, feces, urine, nasal secretions, etc.) or during pregnancy and lactation.

It is typical of cats that live in the outside or street cats who live in a group or in colonies. When the virus comes into contact with the animal’s immune system, three situations can occur:

  • The cat is immune since it has created antibodies that can cope with the virus. You may have symptoms for a few weeks but then you will stop having them.
  • The virus enters the blood and saliva, damaging the immune system and causing leukemia. The animal is more likely to be infected with other diseases. They do not live beyond 2 or 3 years.
  • The virus is eliminated from the blood and saliva but remains latent in the bone marrow. Although the virus can be reactivated, it will most likely not affect our cat.

Symptoms of leukemia in cats

The symptoms of feline leukemia are very varied and will depend on the state of health of the animal. These are some of the most common:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Skin lesions
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes


In addition to taking into account the symptoms, you must confirm if the cat really suffers from leukemia, you can do the following tests:

  • ELISA (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay): This test is typical of veterinary clinics. A blood sample is collected from the cat and detected if there is the presence of the antigen, or initial stages of the infection. After several weeks it will be confirmed if it is positive, since it is not known whether the infection is temporary or permanent.
  • PCR (polymerase chain reaction): detects the DNA of the virus in the affected cells either in blood samples, as in other tissues. Although it can detect latent infections, it is not as available unlike ELISA.
  • IFA (direct immunofluorescence): it is not useful to detect initial stages but it serves to confirm ELISA positives. Detects the presence of the antigen in infected cells.

Treatment of leukemia in cats

Today There is no specific treatment to cure this disease. The goal is for our cat to have the best quality of life possible.

The treatment can help our cat live a few months or even years, and will be based mainly on:

  • Protection against infections (antiviral and immunoregulatory).
  • Avoid stress and give you peace of mind.
  • healthy and balanced diet.
  • Specific treatments for other complications.

Is it possible to prevent the spread of feline leukemia?

Here we show you the main preventive measures to take into account:

  • The main preventive measure is vaccinate our pet to prevent the onset of this disease. Normally it is usually already programmed in the vaccination schedule of our veterinarian (8 or 9 weeks of life). Vaccination usually has no effect on already infected animals. So, it is important before adopting a kitten to make sure he does not have the disease.
  • The positive cats will keep them away from the negative ones to avoid contagion even though they have the vaccine. It is not advisable to live together.
  • We will disinfect the places where the cat sleeps, the drinking trough and feeder to eliminate the virus.

This article is merely informative, in .com we do not have the faculty to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any kind of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian in case of any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Leukemia in cats – Symptoms, treatment and causes of infection, we recommend that you enter in our section of viral diseases.

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