Feline Leukemia Vaccination

When is the Feline Leukemia vaccine given?

Kittens are extremely susceptible to the feline leukemia virus. Because of this, it is considered a core vaccination for all cats up to a year of age regardless of lifestyle. This vaccine is given at 12 weeks, 16 weeks, and one year for all cats. After this point, it is not typically given to indoor-only cats. For outdoor cats, or indoor cats which are exposed to outdoor cats, it is then given annually.

What is Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLv)?

The feline leukemia virus is of special importance with outdoor cats and cats of the feral cat population. FeLv is the most common cause of cancer in cats. It received its name because leukemia was one of the first diseases associated with the virus. Leukemia, however is only one of many diseases which this virus can cause. The virus ultimately weakens the immune system system, which increases susceptibility to infection as well as cancers. Everyday microbes which cause no problems in healthy cats, may cause life-threatening infections in an FeLv patient. FeLv is not the same virus as FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) which is a similar virus. The current vaccination for FIV, however, is extremely controversial and regarded as ineffective to the FIV virus present in the United States.

What are the symptoms of FeLv?

Due to this weakening of the immune system, symptoms of FeLv vary greatly. Some general symptoms may include weight loss, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, lethargy, loss of appetite, diarrhea, neurologic symptoms, gum-line inflammation (gingivitis), and mouth inflammation (stomatitis). Cats may not show symptoms until after they have been infected.

How is FeLv spread to cats?

The most common way the virus is spread is through social interaction with an infected cat. The virus is primarily present in saliva and nasal secretions but may also be found in urine or feces. Indoor cats exposed to outdoor cats through window screens may be exposed to the virus.

How is FeLv diagnosed?

An in-house test called an ELISA test is available at SBVH which tests for Felv and FIV. This is an accurate, inexpensive, and quick test.

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