Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a virus specific to domestic felines and is a leading cause of illness and death in cats. There are different strains of FIV and some are more harmful than others, however cats exposed to the virus show signs and symptoms resulting from a deficiency in the immune system.
FIV reduces the ability of a cat's immune system to respond to infection which causes secondary disease. Infections that would normally be overcome and cleared become prolonged, chronic, or recurrent. This means that many of the clinical signs associated with FIV are due to non-healing infections.
Transmission of FIV occurs through contact with an infected cat. The disease is spread when infected saliva is transferred through a cat bite. Outdoor cats are particularly at risk for contracting this disease because of the increased incidence of cat fights and cat bite abscesses. FIV can also be transferred from an infected mother to her kittens.
Common clinic signs of FIV infection include:
- infection of the mouth and gums
- weight loss
- poor appetite
- inflammation of the membrane around the eyes
- swollen lymph glands
A lot of these signs are very non-specific and many diseases have a similar clinical picture.
The only clear way to diagnose FIV is through a special blood test that looks for an immune response to the virus. Jane Animal Hospital recommends that all cats that may have been exposed at any point in their lifetime be tested at least once. Early detection of infection will enable you to manage the disease, maintain the health of your cat, and will also help to prevent the spread of disease to other cats.