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Feline Immunodeficiency Virus


FIV stands for feline immunodeficiency virus, just as HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. In fact, these two viruses are closely related and much of the general information that has become common knowledge for HIV also holds true for FIV. FIV is a virus that causes AIDS in cats; however, there is a long period without symptoms before AIDS occurs and our job is to prolong this asymptomatic period. The average life expectancy from the time of diagnosis for FIV is 5 years. Humans cannot be infected with FIV; it is an infection that affects cats only.

Infected cats may appear normal for years. However, infection eventually leads to a state of immune deficiency that hinders the cat’s ability to protect itself against other infections. The same bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi that may be found in the everyday environment (where they usually do not affect healthy animals) can cause severe illness in those with weakened immune systems. These secondary infections are responsible for many of the diseases associated with FIV.

The major route of virus transmission is by the deep bite wounds that occur during fighting. There are other means of spreading the virus but they are less common. Mother cats cannot readily infect their kittens except in the initial stages of her infection. FIV can be transmitted sexually and through improperly screened blood transfusions. Casual contact is unlikely to transmit the virus.

It is advisable to have any cat joining an established household screened for FIV prior to introducing them into the family. If you have any further questions regarding this disease please call us at the clinic to discuss in more detail.

Written by Fairmont Animal Hospital


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