Feline Leukemia Vaccine: What You Need To know About The Disease

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 The feline leukemia vaccine is so important for our cats because feline leukemia is one of the most severe diseases a cat can contract. In addition to the damage of the virus in the body, it causes secondary infections, immunodeficiency, and cancers. ,

Feline Leukemia is unfortunately often fatal. It is a very complex and viral disease. Contamination only occurs between cats. This infection particularly affects outdoor cats, those who live in communities, and uncastrated males.


What is feline leukemia?

Feline leukemia or FeLV is, along with AIDS in cats (FIV), one of the fatal diseases in these animals. It is a retrovirus infection that, by developing in the body, will cause immunodeficiency, secondary infections, and even cancers. The virus is transmitted from cat to cat by contact via saliva, urine, and blood. A female can infect a fetus or a kitten in utero or during breastfeeding.

Feline leukemia is caused by a retrovirus, which can remain "dormant" in the body for months or even years before infecting the blood. An infected cat can eliminate the virus on its own with an adapted immune response, as long as the infection has not reached the bone marrow. From the nasal or oral cavities to the pharynx, the virus will spread in the blood – the cat is then affected by viremia –, then multiply in the lymphoid tissues before attacking the bone marrow, white blood cells, and blood platelets.

feline leukemia vaccine


Symptoms of Feline Leukemia

Symptoms of feline leukemia are both varied and often non-specific. They depend on the state of the virus in the body. Thus, at the start of viremia, a cat will present depression, fever, loss of appetite, or even anorexia and/or anemia.

Other symptoms may be linked to the primary infection or one of the secondary infections due to the virus: diarrhea, discharge from the eyes and nose, weight loss, breathing difficulties, etc. Recurrent infections of the eyes, oral cavity, or /and skin such as enlarged lymph nodes, signal immunodeficiency. It is necessary to be very careful when it comes to symptoms such as neurological disorders. Since it can cause neoplastic diseases such as feline leukemia and lymphoma, it should never be ignored.


The Diagnosis Of Feline Leukemia

Since feline leukemia is a complex disease, the diagnosis is just as complex. It begins with routine examinations: blood test, urine test, x-ray to detect pleural effusion or chest mass.


Serological tests

If leukemia is suspected, there are two serological tests. The first, called Elisa, detects virus antigens in the blood. It takes place in the veterinary clinic and quickly gives a result (in 20 min). If it is positive, a second test must be carried out, this time in the laboratory, which will look for the antigens in the white blood cells and blood platelets. However, it is not uncommon for the Elisa test to give false positives. If there are two positive tests, the cat will carry this disease for life. This report indicates that the cat is viremic. A positive Elisa test and a second negative laboratory test open the door to several possibilities: a false positive, the cat is at the start of the infection, or in a transient condition. It is then necessary to test the animal again three months later. Finally, two negative results do not ensure that the cat has nothing since it may be a latent carrier. Certainty will then come from bone marrow cultures.

feline leukemia vaccine

The Treatment Of Feline Leukemia

There is currently no effective treatment for feline leukemia. It must be admitted that 90% of viremic cats whose infection persists die within four years. Therefore, veterinarians focus their care on secondary pathologies and the consequences of leukemia: treatment of diseases, diet, and rehydration, chemotherapy in the event of lymphoma, blood transfusion if the cat suffers from severe anemia, etc. In addition, to avoid any secondary infection and contamination, the cat must stay indoors and not be in contact with congeners. Particular attention will be paid to his oral and dental health. In the acute phase, however, recombinant feline interferon can be effective in controlling symptoms, but it is a very expensive treatment.


Prevention And Feline Leukemia Vaccine

The best way to prevent feline leukemia is the feline leukemia vaccine. A vaccine is indeed available, delivered in two injectable doses four weeks apart, then with an annual booster. First of all, it is recommended to screen the cat. And that, too, is a weapon against this disease. Any cat that arrives in a house, especially if there are already some, exposed to its congeners or presenting a risk of contamination (a bite, for example) should be tested. The same goes for a sick cat. The prevalence of feline leukemia, from 2 to 3% for healthy cats, climbs from 6 to 12% for already ill cats.

Apart from the feline leukemia vaccine, what can I do to protect my cat beside the feline leukemia vaccine? Feline leukemia vaccine against feline leukosis should be systematic for any cat that goes out: it is the best protection against this virus. The other attitude to adopt is to try to prevent the cat from encountering the virus: a sterilized cat will lose its secondary sexual characteristics, such as the need to fight to defend its territory or win the favor of a female. Thus, he will be less exposed to the disease since he will frequent cats at much less risk.

feline leukemia vaccine


 Feline Leukemia Vaccine Side Effects

As for feline leukemia vaccine side effects, as with any injection of product, it is possible that your cat, after his vaccine, has minor edema or inflammation. Massaging the place where the bite was made allows the product to diffuse and the cat to be reassured. It's more the visit to an unfamiliar site and being confronted with strange smells that frighten him than the vaccine itself.

Each cat has its sensitivity, like human beings. He may, after a vaccine, be a little more apathetic than usual and not want to eat. But, rest assured, this state is temporary and the next day at the latest, you will find your companion jumping and happy as usual.

Still, others may be intolerant of the vaccine. In this case, they may have gastrointestinal disorders (loose stools). These symptoms then appear very quickly (a few hours). It is better to call your veterinarian so that he can remedy the situation by making a pharmacovigilance declaration. This is quite rare.

Compared to the benefits of vaccination, the risk of seeing your animal have feline leukemia vaccine side effects is extremely rare. It should not make you doubt if you have decided to protect it.


How much does the feline leukemia vaccine cost?

If your kitten has tested negative for leucosis, you can now protect her against this disease by having her vaccinated. Unfortunately, the price of vaccines is often a barrier for owners. However, it must be understood that treatment, when an illness occurs, is often more expensive and, for certain diseases, has little effect.

It is possible to combine several vaccines in a single injection. Thus, you can protect your kitten against rabies, coryza, typhus, and leucosis. You will have one month later for the second mandatory injection.

feline leukemia vaccine


Feline Leukemia: Should Reminders Be Given And If So, When?

For the feline leukemia vaccine to continue to be effective in your cat's body, you must do a booster shot yearly. Otherwise, you would have to start the whole process over again.

Forgetting the reminders puts your cat at risk because, during this time, he is no longer immune to the disease. The trouble is of course, lower when your cat is an indoor cat. But, on the other hand, if it is a male who regularly goes out on the road, it is better to think about looking at the vaccination record.

Your veterinarian may be one of those professionals who notify cat (and dog) owners of recall dates by texting or emailing them. Do not hesitate to communicate your coordinates to him if it is the case. By receiving a letter or a message, a few days before, you put all the chances on your side not to forget.


 Pay less for the vaccination of your cat:

Owning a pet brings a lot of joy but also comes with duties. It is important, before committing, to establish a monthly budget to know if you can meet his needs, both in terms of food and accommodation, but also care.

Vaccination being part of the preventive acts, they are very often included in the formulas. The higher the level of coverage you opt for, the higher the reimbursement will be.

Many criteria are to be taken into account such as the reimbursement of the vaccination, therefore, but also the annual cap, the fact that your cat can continue to be insured when it ages,  and if so, without additional premium but also the price that you can put every month, etc.

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