feline luekemia picture

Feline leukemia can be spread by kitty kisses and other casual contact. Photo: SuziJane/Flickr

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are phrases that every cat owner dreads -- and for good reason. The diseases are deadly, and treatments for either of them are limited. That may soon change.

Missouri-based company ProLabs has recently launched a drug to fight these devastating infections. It's the first treatment for the diseases to have been granted a conditional license by the USDA.

Veterinarian and consultant for the Cornell Feline Health Center Christine Bellezza told Paw Nation that FeLV and FIV are related but distinct diseases. "They both affect the immune system, but in slightly different ways."

Both infections suppress a cat's immune response and impair the ability to fight off diseases. As a result, infected cats often pick up a parade of viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Blood disorders, such as life-threatening anemia, are common in cats with FeLV or FIV, and the viruses can also cause various types of cancer. In fact, feline leukemia is the most common cause of cancer in cats.

FIV is spread from cat to cat mostly through bite wounds and intercourse (another reason to spay and neuter!). FeLV passes from cat to cat much more casually -- infected kitties can pass the virus to their playmates through grooming and by sharing a litter box or food dish. Kittens are especially susceptible to contracting the virus.

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