World AIDS Day takes place today – 1 December, and as part of this, leading vet charity PDSA is seeking to raise awareness of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), a feline-specific virus that causes a disease similar to the HIV virus in humans.
FIV positive cats do not pose any risk to humans or pets of other species, and the disease is spread through cat bites, a territorial behaviour most commonly seen in non-neutered cats.
PDSA Vet Nurse, Katy Orton, said: “FIV can be a difficult disease to identify due to the non-specific and sometimes vague symptoms, but a blood test can give a quick diagnosis. There’s no preventive vaccine available and FIV currently has no cure. It’s therefore important cat owners take steps to reduce the chances of their cat becoming infected”.
Following infection, years can go by without cats showing any signs or symptoms, and when they do show, they often come on slowly. The virus causes a problem with cats’ immune systems, meaning they become unable to protect themselves against other infections.
Symptoms of FIV are often mild at first and can include diarrhoea, sneezing, skin and eye infections, weight loss, lethargy, and reduced appetite. Swollen glands can also be a symptom.
To protect your cat, it’s essential to neuter them to reduce the risk of fighting and being bitten by an infected cat.
Katy adds: “Infected cats need to be kept indoors to prevent spreading the infection. Research shows that within stable cat households where there is no fighting, the chance of an FIV positive cat infecting another cat is incredibly low. As a precaution, infected cats can be fed from a different food bowl to reduce the chance of any saliva coming into contact with healthy cats. A good quality diet, routine preventive care such as vaccinations and flea control as well as rapid treatment of any secondary problems will help them lead a normal life.”
“If you are concerned your cat may have contracted the virus, call your vet for advice. They will be able to run a blood test to determine if your cat has become infected, and although incurable, will be able to recommend ways to manage the condition.”
PDSA is the UK’s leading vet charity. We’re on a mission to improve pet wellbeing through prevention, education and treatment. Funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. www.pdsa.org.uk