Feline AIDS - Contagion, symptoms and treatment


The immunodeficiency virus affects the cells of the immune system (white blood cells or leukocytes) by destroying or damaging them. This causes a gradual deterioration of the cat's immune function. In the early phase of the infection it may not cause apparent signs of disease. The immune system is very important in the fight against infections and the body's control over cancer cells. Thus cats infected with IVF have a high risk of disease and infections by other viruses, bacteria and parasites such as Toxoplasma gondii or hemoplasms (blood parasites that cause anemia).

IVF Prevalence

The prevalence of IVF in the total population of healthy cats in the United Kingdom is approximately 6% and the estimated prevalence in the population of sick cats is approximately 14%. This prevalence varies in different areas of the world and among different cat populations. (for example, home cats compared to field or stray cats).

What is the risk for cats?

The most common form of virus transmission is through the bite during a fight. For this reason, un neutered male cats are at greater risk of contagion and the prevalence is increased with cats with access to the outside, stray and stray cats. Any cat can be infected at any age but often it takes a long time between infection and the development of symptoms and that is why the onset of the disease is more common in adult and older cats.

How does it spread?

The bite is considered the most important transmission method. The saliva of an infected cat contains a large number of viruses and a single bite can trigger the transmission of the infection. The infection is also caused by close social contact, between a group of cats where there is no aggression, through grooming or sharing the drinking fountain and the feeder. Some cats that are born to females infected with the virus may become infected during pregnancy or through breast milk. Infection in puppies is difficult to confirm due to the presence of maternal antibodies, since these last for many months. It is thought that sexual transmission is not significant. It is not known if hematophagous parasites such as fleas can spread the infection so it is better to maintain regular control of fleas.

What are the symptoms of the infection?

The signs of IVF infection are highly nonspecific. During the first phase of the disease (the first 2-4 months) cats may show signs for a short time including discomfort, fever (high temperature) and a possible increase in lymph node size or lymphadenopathy (the glands that filter the blood of the body to check for infection or tumor cells). Most cats recover from that early phase and enter the second phase in which they are apparently healthy. In the third phase of the infection other signs develop due to the direct effect of the virus (for example, it can infect the gastrointestinal tract causing diarrhea) and due to the depression of the immune system and the inability of the cat to fight against other infections, making it prone to other diseases or secondary infections. These states can take different forms and therefore the clinical signs can be very variable. However, the presence of a persistent or recurrent disease in the cat indicates a possible immunodeficiency. The most common signs are malaise, weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, lymphadenopathy and gingivitis (inflamed gums). Other additional signs are rhinitis (inflammation of the internal tissue that lines the nose causing sneezing and nasal discharge), skin infection, anemia, conjunctivitis (inflammation of the internal area of ​​the eyelid), uveitis (inflammation of the internal structures of the eye) and diseases of the nervous system that cause behavioral changes and seizures (attacks). Infected mothers can abort the litter.

How is it diagnosed?

There are several test systems available for the diagnosis of IVF infection. Some of these tests can be performed in veterinary clinics. These tests detect antibodies against the virus. Like many other diagnostic tests, this test is not 100% accurate and can give false positive or negative results in the following situations:

  1. Some infected cats produce antibodies that are not detected by standard tests (false negatives)
  2. The sample may be contaminated (false positive)
  3. In the early stages of the disease, antibodies against the disease are not produced (less than two months after infection). It is wise to repeat a negative test on a suspected animal in about 12 weeks.
  4. The pups were born> There are other tests that are available in specialized laboratories (to which the veterinarian can send the sample) to detect the virus itself and those tests are very sensitive. Virus isolation can also be performed. If the result of the first antibody test presents any doubt or leads to confusion then the veterinarian may need an additional test to ensure a correct result.

Prevention and control

There is a vaccine registered in the United States for IVF but there are no data on its efficacy. The vaccine produces antibodies against the virus that are detected by most of the diagnostic tests available to the clinical veterinarian. The use of the vaccine in this country invalidates the use of these tests.
If a positive case is detected in a house with several cats, the infected cat must be isolated or removed from the house. However, since the risk of infection through direct contact and sharing feeders and drinking troughs is very low, many owners choose to keep the cat at home. It is very useful for cats to use feeders and drinking troughs separated by the large amount of virus found in saliva. The tray and feeders should be disinfected after use to eliminate the virus. Once out of the cat the virus dies in a few minutes, so it is difficult to get infected through clothes or other objects

Breeders Advice

To minimize the risk of introducing the virus into the colony, breeders are advised to prevent their cats from having access to the outside and not having contact with other cats that can go out or live outside. It is important to make annual analyzes and new cats before entering the hatchery. If a positive cat is identified, appropriate measures must be taken: stop breeding, analyze all cats and eliminate or completely separate infected individuals. All cats will be tested again in 3-6 months and if they are still all negative, breeding can be restored.

Prognosis of infected cats

The prognosis of cats with IVF is reserved. If the infection is diagnosed early, it may take a long time until the cat develops signs of IVF disease. Although it is not certain that all infected cats develop an immunodeficiency syndrome, experience suggests that most will have it and in all cases the infection appears to be permanent. Many cats with IVF can stay long periods in good health with the help of maintenance advice.

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VIF - Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Known with the acronym VIF, the immunodeficiency virus in cats is a lentivirus that only attacks cats. Although it is the same disease that affects humans, it is caused by a different virus, so what AIDS in cats is not spread to humans.

The VIF directly attacks the immune system, destroying T-lymphocytes, which results in the animal being vulnerable to other less important diseases or infections, but with this condition can lead to death.

Detected in time, feline AIDS is a disease that can be controlled. An infected cat, who follows proper treatment, can have a long and dignified life.

Transmission and transmission of AIDS in cats

In order for our pet to get AIDS, it needs to be in contact with the saliva or blood of another infected cat. In principle, there is only evidence that Feline AIDS is transmitted through bites, so stray cats are the most likely to carry the virus.

Unlike the disease in humans, it has not been proven that AIDS in cats is transmitted sexually, during the management of an infected mother or even if pets share drinking trough or feeder.

If your cat has always been at home you do not have to worry, but if he is not neutered and goes out at night, it is best to do a blood test to check that everything is fine. Remember that cats are territorial, which can cause occasional bite fighting.

Symptoms of feline AIDS

As in humans, a cat infected with the AIDS virus can live for years without presenting characteristic symptoms or until the disease can be detected.

However, when the destruction of T-lymphocytes begins to diminish the capacity of the feline's immune system, small bacteria and viruses that our pets face daily and without any problem, they will start to wreak havoc on the animal's health and it is Then when the first symptoms may appear.

AIDS symptoms in cats More common and that may appear months after infection are:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dull coat
  • Gingivitis
  • Stomatitis
  • Recurring infections
  • Diarrhea
  • Inflammation of connective tissue
  • Progressive weight loss
  • Abortions and fertility problems
  • Mental deterioration

In general, the main symptom of a cat with AIDS is the occurrence of recurrent diseases. So it is important to monitor the sudden onset of common diseases It costs them to disappear or if your cat constantly falls into health problems that seem unimportant.

Treatment for cats with immunodeficiency

The best cure is prevention, however, although AIDS disease in cats has no vaccine, with proper care an infected pet can have a happy life.

To prevent your cat from becoming infected with the AIDS virus, remember to control its exits and avoid fights with stray cats, as well as do a checkup at least once a year and more if you see that he returns home with a scratch or bite. If this was not enough and your cat is infected you have to work in the strengthening of the defenses and the immune system.

There are antimicrobial medications that can help control infections or bacteria that attack the animal. It is important that we keep in mind that these treatments must be carried out constantly because otherwise our feline friend may relapse with new infections. There are also anti-inflammatory medications that will help control derived diseases such as gingivitis and stomatitis.

Apart from medications, feeding cats with AIDS should be special. It is recommended that the diet be of high caloric content, so the beats and wet food are a perfect ally to fight against the deterioration of the infected animal.

No treatment acts directly on the VIF itself, what we can do to help our pet and give it a dignified life, is to keep at bay all opportunistic diseases that can attack him while his immune system is weak.

What is feline immunodeficiency?

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is popularly known as the HIV of cats and it is an infectious-contagious disease that affects felines, attacking their immune system and that favors the appearance of secondary infections and concomitant diseases.

This disease, which virologists have classified in the same family as the Feline Leukemia virus, first appeared in 1987 in a colony of cats in California that had high durability of infectious conditions and degenerative diseases.

Feline Immunodeficiency usually occurs in all types of cats. However, there are determining factors, for example, they are usually spread more in stray cats or uncontrolled life. As for sex, it is more common for them to be affected by this disease unmastered males and finally, age is also a factor to consider, since cats older than 5 are the most likely.

How is it spread?

This disease is very contagious but, in principle, we can say that the way in which the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is transmitted is through the bite of an infected feline to a healthy feline.

Direct and continuous contact of healthy infected cats without aggressive contact would rarely be a method of contagion of the virus. However, it is likely that a pregnant cat can pass it on to its young.

Finally, it has differentiated with HIV, this virus has not been proven to be transmitted when having sex, although it is advisable to castrate felines.

What are the symptoms?

As with other diseases, Feline Immunodeficiency can be asymptomatic previously, which will not allow us to identify it until it suffers a disease due to low defenses.

In addition, this disease results in a slow clinical process that focuses on several stages.

The first phase lasts between 4 and 16 weeks, which is when the virus begins to attack white blood cells. In this phase the cat may suffer from anemia, swollen lymph nodes, fever, neutropenia, diarrhea and respiratory symptoms.

The second phase has a long duration, even more than 4 years and cats may have immunological changes, but the rest of the symptoms disappear, leaving the feline with a salty appearance.

Finally, the virus manages to destroy the animal's immune system, which causes it to be exposed to any type of infection or disease. In this phase the feline may have loss of appetite, dull hair, weight loss, lymphadenopathy, anemia, diarrhea, gingivitis, respiratory infections, in the eyes and skin, hematological alterations, behavioral changes, seizures, mental deterioration or stomach swelling .

In some cases, various cancers may appear.

Treatment of feline immunodeficiency

As we see, this disease is very serious because it can cause death to our felines, we must also keep in mind that Feline Immunodeficiency has no cure, it can only be treated so that it does not progress further and to give the feline quality of life.

Therefore, it is essential that you take it as soon as possible and for this it is essential that you go to the veterinarian to examine it and perform the relevant tests to diagnose it.

As for the treatment that is usually used it is through antiviral and immunomodular or antimicrobial drugs to counteract infectious conditions.

Anti-inflammatories are often used for gum or stomach inflation.

As for the longevity of the cat, it cannot be estimated, but it is important for her to help her defenses stop other discomforts through care.

How to prevent this disease?

In the market there is no vaccine for this disease, so it is necessary to take precautionary measures so that your cat is not infected. Among them, it is important that the animal is isolated from other cats and in the case of having to take it to the veterinarian we must do it through carrier, so that it does not bite with another.

It is essential that a high quality diet be provided, control parasites and, above all, keep the environment clean.

If our cat has this disease, it is recommended that routine check-ups be carried out, a diet high in protein is provided and that he is not stressed.

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What else should I know about feline AIDS?

Life expectancy: It is important that you keep in mind that the life expectancy of a cat with AIDS is not easy to predict, it will all depend on how your immune system responds to the attack of opportunistic diseases. When we talk about a decent life, we mean that a pet with feline AIDS can live with dignity by having a series of minimum care. Even if it seems that your health is rebounding, you should be very aware of aspects such as weight and fever.

One of my cats has AIDS but the others don't: If cats do not fight each other there is no chance of infection. Remember that feline AIDS is only transmitted through bites. However, as this is somewhat difficult to control, we recommend that the infected cat be isolated, just as if it were any other infectious disease.

My cat has died of AIDS, is it safe to bring a new one ?: Without the carrier, the VIF (feline immunodeficiency virus) is very unstable and does not survive more than a few hours. In addition, feline AIDS is only transmitted through saliva and blood, and without an infected cat that bites, contagion to a new pet is very unlikely.

However, as with any other infectious disease, we recommend some preventive measures:

  • Disinfect or replace all belongings of the deceased cat
  • Disinfect rugs and carpets
  • Vaccinate the new pet against the most common infectious diseases

Can a cat with AIDS infect me ?: No, feline AIDS does not attack humans. A cat infected with AIDS can never infect a human even by biting him. Although it is the same disease, the VIF is not the same virus that infects humans, in this case we talk about HIV which is the human immunodeficiency virus.

This article is purely informative, we have no power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any kind of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian in case he presents any type of condition or discomfort.