FELINE AIDS – FIV (FELINE IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS)
Feline Aids is a retrovirus of the subfamily of lentivirus, very similar to the human “Aids” virus HIV. FIV is not transmittable to any species other than feline. FIV disrupts the host’s immune system, rendering the host less capable of fighting off bacterial and fungal infections. The virus targets feline lymphocytes and macrophages. Aids positive cats can live for many years, but should be kept indoors to prevent spread of the disease.
Unneutered males are more likely to become Aids infected due to roaming, fighting and breeding. Clinical signs vary widely. Recurrent illness and minor respiratory infections and gastrointestinal infections are common.
Common physical examination findings include: Upper respiratory infection, rhinitis, conjunctivitis, lymph node enlargement. Often concomitant herpes virus infection and calicivirus infection exist. Other symptoms include persistent diarrhea, bacterial overgrowth, parasite-induced inflammation. Chronic responsive infections of external ear and skin, dermatophytosis are also seen. Wasting away (chronic weight loss) and fever often occur with FIV. Neurological signs include aggression and peripheral neuropathies.
Transmission usually occurs by cat-to-cat bite wounds. Diagnosis is made by Cites testing by a Veterinarian.
There is no cure for FIV. The disease is fatal and progressive. Therapies may include hospitalization, intravenous fluid therapy, injectable or oral antibiotics, and anti-viral medications such as Interferon. There is concern of transmission of secondary infectiouse agents such toxoplasmosis that can be transmitted to humans, especially the elderly and pregnant women.
Although long term prognosis is poor, cats that test positive for the virus can survive years without exhibiting any clinical sign. Therefore, feline positive cats should be housed indoors to protect other cats. There is now a very effective vaccination available to protect cats from FIV.