FIV or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is the virus that causes AIDS in cats. Even though FIV is very similar to the HIV virus in humans, FIV is not a zoonotic virus, meaning it can only infect cats and cannot be passed on to humans. FIV can stay dormant in a cat for many years before causing AIDS, so an FIV positive cat can still live a normal, long life. It varies, but as of now, the life expectancy for a FIV positive cat is five years post diagnosis, but may have long exceeded this timeframe.
Cats can become infected with FIV in a couple different ways; kittens from their mother (only if the mother is newly infected), transmission through blood or sexual intercourse, and the most commonly seen way is from bite wounds received through a cat fight.
At Eagle Animal Hospital we test for FIV during regular appointments using a quick, in office, snap test that also tests for FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus) and heartworm disease. If that test shows a positive then further bloodwork will be done to confirm the positive result.
If your cat tests positive for FIV, don't worry, they can still live a happy and healthy life! FIV affects the immune system so you should pay more attention to some things. Keep them up to date on routine exams, bloodwork and vaccinations. Apply monthly recommended preventatives and stay away from raw food diets. Above all else, your cat must now be indoor only! Not only will letting them out be dangerous for your cat's more fragile health, but it also will put all the cats in your area at risk of contracting FIV.
Being FIV positive does not necessarily mean your cat has to be lonely. If you have other cats and they all get along, the risk is minimal since regular interaction will not pass FIV. If you feel it is possible they will get into fights, it is best to keep them as the only cat in your household.
For the prevention of FIV there is a vaccine available but it remains controversial. Many veterinarians do not recommend it at this time for various reasons regarding research, effectiveness, etc. In the treatment realm there are many Immune Stimulating Agents and antioxidants that may help in strengthening a FIV positive cat's immunity.
If you have questions regarding FIV please call us at Eagle Animal Hospital (610) 458-8789. We serve Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore and the surrounding area.
Written by Kaelin Mast, receptionist