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Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) ✪ FeLV is distributed worldwide. The domestic cat is the predominant host, but the virus can also infect other felidae. Navies 2011. Etiology. FeLV retrovirus in family Oncoviae Subgroups Subgroup A: All infected cats have this type, causes immune suppression

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navies 2011
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)✪FeLV is distributed worldwide. The domestic cat is the predominant host, but the virus can also infect other felidae

Navies 2011

  • FeLV retrovirus in family Oncoviae
  • Subgroups
  • Subgroup A: All infected cats have this type, causes immune suppression
  • Subgroup B: 50% along with subgroup A
    • Neoplastic Disease (abnormal tisue growth)
  • Subgroup C: Isolated from 1% along with subgroup A
  • Can sometimes have all three
  • The Name "Feline Leukemia Virus" is a misnomer stuck.
  • FeLV is NOT leukemia, but leukemia was one of the first diseases associated with the virus, and thus, the name was applied. By the time it was discovered that this actually was a virus and not leukemia, the term had already stuck and was in popular use.
  • Discovered in1964 in a cluster of cats with lymph sarcoma

The feline leukemia virus (FeLV) was discovered in 1964 in a cluster of cats with lymphosarcoma. The observed clustering of cases of feline lymphosarcoma suggested that FeLV was an infectious agent for cats. The development of a simple immunofluorescent test for FeLV permitted a seroepidemiological study to be undertaken on the distribution of the virus in cats living in their natural environment. Over 2000 cats were tested, and the results showed conclusively that FeLV is an infectious agent for cats.


Young kittens

Males are 1.7x more likely to be infected

1-6 years of Age

All breeds

Studies indicate

that it cannot be

passed on to other

species. Cats only.


Incidence is directly related to the population

Healthy cats can transmit this virus, they can be a carrier

Large quantities are secreted through saliva

Tears, urine , & feces (less likely but still possible)

Vertically & Horizontally


Virus is unstable within the environment close contact must occur for infection to take place

Incubation Period: about 8 weeks

Some strains of FeLV can be grown in human tissue cultures. This has led to concerns of possible transmission to humans. Several studies have addressed this concern; none have shown any evidence that any zoonotic risk exists

clinical signs
  • Regressive form: transient infection
  • Progressive infection (primary viremia): persistent viremia and no clinical signs. Diagnosed by ELISA
  • Active form: Clinical signs and secondary viremia. Point of no most cats will be infected for the rest of their lives. Diagnosed by IFA/ ELISA
clinical signs1
Clinical Signs

★ Anisocoria is occasional within FeLV patients





Weight loss


“Secondary infections”: non healing


Vomiting & diarrhea

Spontaneous abortion

Renal disease

Tumors of lymphoid origin


Neurological signs

clinical signs2
Clinical Signs
  • Vary because so many body systems can be affected
    • Loss of appetite, fever, weight loss, and weakness are the most common.
    • Enlarged lymph nodes, blood in stool, diarrhea, jaundice, non healing wounds.
    • could appear normal and actually have the disease in its system

IFA (Immuno Florescence Assay)

Tests for the presence of structural antigens in the cytoplasm of infected cells


Tests for the presence of FeLV p27

Tests for antigens vs. virus itself

Accuracy is higher when both tests are run

There are 6 stages of FeLV infection as follows:

Stages 1-3 - FeLV is disseminated through the lymphoid tissue.

Stage 4 – FeLV infects the bone marrow.

Stage 5 - Viral-infected neutrophils and platelets are released from the bone marrow.

Stage 6 – FeLV appears in epithelial tissues (e.g., salivary glandular epithelium).


Antiviral Drugs

Broad Spectrum Antibiotics

Appetite Stimulants


Blood transfusions

Fluid therapy

Pain medication

Therapeutic diets



Kept indoors


Elimination of stress



Immunomodulator drugs

  • Acemannan
  • Propionibacterium acnes
  • Human recombinant interferon-α

★These drugs are toxic to bone marrow.

Cats should have hemograms reevaluated

frequently during treatment. Limit

treatment to 3-week intervals to avoid

marrow toxicity.


Depends on immune status, exposure to virus, & vaccination history

70% develop immunity & are able to fight of the virus before developing the symptoms

30% that’s don’t develop the immunity are persistently viremic

Stress, or drugs that suppress the immune system, can develop a viremic breakout

IFA positive =will succumb within 6 months of detection

Average lifespan is less than 3 years

pathologic lesions
Pathologic Lesions

★The virus causes both immune cell depletion and dysfunction which result in several FeLV-induced

immunopathologic diseases and numerous secondary immunosuppressive diseases which together are

the major cause of death of FeLV-infected cats

Persistently veremic cats may manifest single or multiple neoplastic diseases:

Lymphoma (Most Common)

Thymic lymphoma (usually in young cats <3 years old)

Alimentary lymphoma

Multicentric lymphoma

Unclassified lymphoma

Lymphocytic Leukemia

Erythroid and Myeloid Leukemias

Fibro Sarcoma

Myelodysplastic Syndrome



Infertility, Fetal Resorption or Abortion

  • Kittens should be vaccinated at 9 to 10 weeks of age, again 3 to 4 weeks later, and then annually.
  • Current commercial vaccines include a killed virus with adjuvant, killed virus without adjuvant, or a recombinant gp70 protein vaccine with an adjuvant.
  • The recommended site for FeLV vaccination is on the left rear thigh or tail.
  • If you have an infected cat in a multi-cat household, keep them separate and be persistent when it comes to cleaning!
  • Before vaccinating cats against FeLV, owners should consider the risks of FeLV exposure versus the potential of vaccine-related complications.
client education
Client Education
  • Even though a cat may be positive for FeLV the cat does not need to be euthanized
  • If cat is positive these precautions must be taken:
  • (Keep animal indoors, Isolate from all other cats, Keep up with vaccines and see a vet if any symptoms develop)
management of felv cats
Management of FeLV + cats
  • Confine FeLV-infected cats indoors to reduce their exposure to other infectious agents carried by animals, and to prevent the spread of infection to other cats in the neighborhood.
  • Spay or neuter FeLV-infected cats.
  • Feed nutritionally complete and balanced diets.
  • Avoid uncooked food, such as raw meat and eggs, and unpasteurized dairy products because the risk of food-borne bacterial and parasitic infections is much higher in immunosuppressed cats.
  • Schedule wellness visits with your veterinarian at least once every six months.
  • Veterinarian should pay special attention to the health of the gums, eyes, skin, and lymph nodes. A complete blood count, serum biochemical analysis, and a urine analysis should be performed at every examination.
  • Weight: your cat's weight should be accurately measured and recorded, as weight loss is often the first sign of deterioration.
  • Closely monitor the health and behavior of your FeLV-infected cat. Alert your veterinarian to any changes in your cat's health immediately.
to sum it up
To “Sum It Up”
  • Feline Leukemia Overview
  • Common Diseases of Companion Animals