Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is comparable to AIDS in humans and is often found simultaneously occurring in cats with feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Similar to AIDS, FIV is present in blood, cerebrospinal fluid, and saliva. The most common transmission of the virus is through a cat fight or during pregnancy as an infected mother passes it to her offspring. In very rare cases, a cat may contract FIV through saliva. Feline immunodeficiency virus is a slowly progressing virus and cannot survive outside its host.
FIV is species-specific, meaning it cannot be acquired from another species, nor can it be passed to another species; it only occurs within cats. Male cats are almost twice as likely to acquire feline immunodeficiency virus, reflecting their propensity to roam as well as quarrel with other cats.
Common illnesses that may occur simultaneously:
- Eye disease
- Neurological problems
- Sinus infection
- Skin disease
- Swollen lymph nodes
Diagnosing and treating FIV
The veterinarian can diagnose feline immunodeficiency virus using a blood test that can detect specific antibodies within the bloodstream. Likely, a second test will be performed called a Western Blot Test to confirm the diagnosis.
After a positive diagnosis is established, there is not much that can be done by means of treatment. Treatment is focused on keeping the cat indoors and away from other cats, preventing the pet from contracting secondary illness and acquiring any sort of infection. FIV-positive cats are capable of living somewhat normal lives when kept in good health and when FIV is detected in earlier stages.
Currently there is a non-core vaccine available for FIV; however, there is controversy surrounding the vaccine due to the fact that inoculated cats test positive with FIV because current FIV antibody tests cannot distinguish between the disease and the vaccination antibodies. Be sure to inform your veterinarian if your cat has obtained the FIV vaccine.