Feline Leukemia is one of the most feared diseases when it comes to cats. And yet, the answer to the question "what are the first signs of feline leukemia" is of great importance. This article will examine the answer to this question and the details of feline leukemia.
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
Feline leukemia virus is found worldwide and can infect cats of all breeds and ages. It is counted among oncogenic viruses, which have a carcinogenic property. The determining factors in the development of the disease are the cat's immune status, the type of virus that infected it (a, b or c), and the amount of virus introduced.
The virus is transmitted by direct contact through nasal discharge, stool, urine, saliva, discharge from the eyes, and breast milk or by indirect contact in cat litter or food containers. Thus, the risk of infection is exceptionally high in places where the cat population is particularly dense. Animal shelters, cat shows, or homes with several cats are at risk of disease. Most of the time, the virus is transmitted during fights with other cats, but a fetus, for example, can also be infected via the mother's uterus.
The disease progresses through 4 stages:
The virus multiplies rapidly in the oral cavity and bone marrow lymphatic tissue and spreads through the bloodstream. Healthy cats can usually shed the virus during this phase. However, the virus circulates in the blood for weeks and is excreted through all secretions and excretions. Also, in this phase, the elimination of the virus is still possible.
Immune deficient cats develop the pattern of feline leukosis. This is because viruses lodge in the bone marrow, and the immune system can hardly fight them.
The virus again spreads in the blood, and there follows massive excretion and the cat's death from the infectious disease's consequences.
What are the first signs of feline leukemia?
As for the answer to the question "what are the first signs of feline leukemia"; the clinical signs of feline leukosis can vary greatly and, as mentioned earlier, depends on the cat's immune status, the type of virus, and the amount of virus received.
During the spread of the virus in the blood:
General symptoms like weakness and fever
Inflammation of the oral mucosa (stomatitis)
After several months of propagation of the virus, diseases associated with FeLV appear, which can affect any organ:
Reduced formation of blood cells in the bone marrow (bone marrow suppression) and resulting immunosuppression and anemia
Bacterial and viral secondary infections resulting from the weakened immune system
Cancer: lymphosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, leukemia
For surrogate mothers: stillborn kitten
Gastrointestinal problems: such as gastritis, vomiting, diarrhea, chronic inflammation of the gums
Kidney disorders: increased urination, presence of blood in the urine
Jaundice (jaundice) due, for example, to the destruction of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia) or liver damage with yellowed mucous membranes
Respiratory symptoms: sneezing, coughing, shortness of breath
Nervous clinical signs: for example, lameness or behavioral changes
Enlarged lymph nodes
From the moment the disease appears, the cat generally dies within three years
How is FeLV diagnosed?
Since feline leukosis can cause various symptoms, a veterinarian needs to distinguish it from other similar infectious diseases, such as cat AIDS, caused by feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or cancerous conditions. However, due to its versatility, diagnosis can take a long time, and any resurgent disease is suspected to be leucosis. Therefore, to exclude possible differential diagnoses, the veterinarian asks for important information during the interview with the guardians (anamnesis). The questions relate to the cat's age, potential contact with other cats, and vaccinations. In addition, it is necessary to assess the general state of health of the cat before proceeding to the following diagnoses. For this purpose, a public clinical examination is conducted. It includes checking the mucous membranes, heart and respiratory rate, and body temperature.
If the cat's circulation is stable, the particular examination can begin.
A blood test is the first way to detect viruses in the blood during the acute phase directly. However, if the virus is at a different stage and therefore hidden in the bone marrow, the result will be negative despite the presence of FeLV infection. In this case, the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) method can detect the virus's DNA.
What are the treatments for feline leukosis?
It is difficult to treat the disease itself. This is why it is mainly treated with measures to strengthen the immune system and symptomatic treatments, in particular:
For secondary infections: antibiotics or antifungals
Treatments for dehydration and electrolyte loss with infusions
A balanced diet: special foods and vitamin supplements
Supplements to strengthen the immune system: para unity inducers
How to avoid feline leukosis?
The question of how to avoid feline leukosis is as essential as the question "what are the first signs of feline leukemia." If you already have a cat with FeLV in your home, the following precautions are essential to protect other cats:
It is imperative to separate healthy cats from sick cats
Regularly clean and disinfect contaminated places and objects (cat litter, bowls, etc.) to protect your cats from leucosis. If your cat already carries the virus, it should not be vaccinated due to sudden disease onset. Veterinarians, therefore, first take a blood test before prescribing the vaccine. Outdoor animals that test negative can be vaccinated at the following intervals:
First injection: from 9 weeks
Second injection: after three weeks
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How to feed a sick cat
If your cat has become ill, you must take special care with its food since it will be a fundamental pillar for its recovery. Unfortunately, in these cases, even the most greedy cat can be reluctant to eat; in some cases, some guardians say, "why does my cat not want to eat and is listless."
Why does a sick cat not eat?
Cats typically eat twice a day, so if your cat isn't eating twice a day, she's probably sick, as multiple illnesses can affect the digestive system.
Nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting cause an upset stomach that causes the cat to lose its appetite. Also, when a cat becomes dehydrated, he doesn't feel like eating either. The less you eat, the worse you will feel and the less hungry you will be, thus aggravating the condition.
Other diseases affect the respiratory tract, preventing the cat from smelling the food. Any pathology that disturbs the sense of smell or taste can affect the cat's appetite. If the cat associates pain, he may reject food if we use it to camouflage medication. Stress will be another conditioning factor.
Now that you know why my cat doesn't want to eat and is down let's find out what to give a cat that doesn't want to eat.
What food should I give a sick cat?
What to give a cat that does not want to eat? In principle, you must continue with your usual diet except if you need a specific diet or nutritional supplement due to your cat's illness. In that case, you will have to change, mixing both options so that the cat gets used to the novelty.
Even if the vet prescribes a special diet, if the cat rejects it and we cannot convince him otherwise, you will give him the food you manage to get him to eat, always consulting the specialist beforehand. In all cases, it will always be better for the animal to be fed whatever it is before fasting, which would aggravate its condition.
How to make my cat eat can be a difficult and time-consuming task, so here are some recommendations in case the cat does not eat:
Especially palatable foods: they are appetizing. Most felines prefer fresh or moist foods, helping them stay hydrated. If you offer them warm food, you stimulate their sense of smell, encouraging their appetite. You can find dry or wet food formulated for convalescence stages. They are very edible products, easy to dilute, and high energy.
Prepare homemade food: following the veterinarian's instructions to ensure that you offer all the nutrients. In the latter case, you could also resort to medication to stimulate appetite. But, of course, always with the veterinarian's prescription, it is recommended to use drugs to control symptoms that may interfere with feedings, such as nausea or vomiting.
Maintain hydration: this also encourages the cat to eat. The vet can prescribe nutritional supplements, such as vitamins or probiotics, depending on the cat's needs, if he considers that he needs them to recover more quickly.
Homemade food for sick cats
You must know that under the vet's supervision, you can cook some recipes for sick cats at home, like rice with chicken, which is one of the quintessential homemade meals for sick cats.
You should not use salt or sauces. You will make the task easier if you make a large quantity and store it in portions in the freezer.
Chicken or turkey are meats widely used during convalescence. We must offer them:
This is because raw meat in sick animals can be problematic if it contains bacteria or parasites that affect our cats internally.
After cooking, crumble, mix it with rice (also cooked), and add a little olive oil. You can make this recipe with fresh or frozen tuna fish. This example of diet is helpful for any convalescent cat.
Porridge for sick cats
For this recipe, you will only need warm water, chicken or turkey (optional), and canned food. You should note that how to feed a sick cat will be based on giving it a smaller amount but more frequently. The steps to prepare it are:
Boil the chicken or turkey, in case you have decided to include it.
Reserve the water with which you have boiled the previous ingredients.
You chop the chicken or turkey and mix it with the canned food.
Once everything is mixed, combine it with the warm water with which you have boiled the chicken or turkey.
When it has cooled, you crush it until it takes on the texture of porridge.
Depending on the disease you suffer from, the percentage of ingredients may vary. That is why you must consult the veterinarian to ensure that the menu is adapted to your situation. Remember that it is a punctual diet to encourage you to eat.
To continue offering homemade food for sick cats, you will have to make a menu that includes all the nutrients the cat needs according to its living conditions. You will consult with a veterinarian specialized in nutrition to avoid harmful deficiencies.
If the cat also rejects this food, you can opt for preserves such as sardines or mussels in olive oil. They are very fragrant and palatable. They should not constitute the basis of a balanced diet, but for these specific situations, you can use them.
Now that you know what to give a cat that doesn't want to eat, let's see what to do if none of the above options work and your sick cat is still down.
What if I can't get my cat to eat?
For the recovery of the cat, it must eat by itself again. In this way, he will stay hydrated. If your cat doesn't accept any food, you can try to get him to eat with a syringe without a needle. You can fill it with a portion of exceptional food for these states, which is very palatable and easily diluted.
Any food you can reduce to a mush liquid can serve you. You carefully pick up the cat and put the syringe in the side of its mouth, behind the fang. Press the plunger to introduce a small amount of food. Once you swallow, you will give a new dose.
You can also try to do it with your finger. If you stain their nose or paw with food, some cats are encouraged to eat when they clean themselves. If none of the indicated works, you can only contact the veterinarian so that he proceeds to force feed the cat. This involves using a tube placed in the nose or esophagus.
How to feed a cat with cancer
Nowadays, it is more and more common to find cats with cancer. In addition to veterinary treatment, these patients will need a quality of life in which food will play an essential role.
What is cancer?
Cancer is the abnormal growth of cells. These will replicate at a higher speed than healthy cells usually do. In this way, they can invade other tissues and move to different body parts, known as metastasis.
Cancer can be benign or malignant and cause more or less severe symptoms. In general, tumors are treated by removing them, if possible, or with medication. Unfortunately, not everyone can be cured, but you can always focus on maintaining your cat's quality of life.
How does cancer affect the cat's diet?
In principle, a cat with cancer can maintain the diet he was used to before getting sick. But, of course, the food we offer him must be of quality, since that will contribute to improving his physical condition. The problem is that it is common for these cats to show a lack of appetite. Stopping eating will cause complications such as malnutrition, which aggravates the condition. Therefore, in these and, in general, in any other sick cat, it is crucial to encourage it to eat. In addition, the diet must be of quality, including supplements of high nutritional value.
If the cat refuses to eat food despite all our attempts, we will have to notify the veterinarian so that he can start forced feeding using a tube that is placed in the nose or the esophagus. Cancer also affects the cat's diet in that its growth induces changes in metabolism because these cells consume nutrients faster than healthy cells.
Cancer in the mouth that makes swallowing difficult or one in the digestive system that causes symptoms such as nausea or vomiting will hinder the intake and absorption of nutrients. These symptoms can also appear as side effects of chemotherapy, which could even alter the senses of smell and taste.
What should be the diet of a cat with cancer?
This must be based on the principles of palatability and high energy density. This means that the food you offer the cat must be delicious and nutritious so that you can keep it nourishing even after eating a small amount.
You can resort to dry or wet commercial foods, always looking for the best quality possible, or opt for a homemade diet supervised by a professional. A veterinarian specializing in nutrition will assure us that the chosen diet is balanced since you cannot risk any nutritional deficit.
How can I help my cat eat?
In addition to offering tasty and quality food, you can follow the following recommendations to encourage the cat to eat them:
Cats are susceptible to changes, so they may reject them if you introduce them to new foods. But, precisely because of this sensitivity, he can associate a portion of a particular food with his discomfort so that he will refuse to eat it. In these cases, you could try to fill the plate with something completely new.
The cat can develop an aversion to food and the place you have given it. That is why you can change the feeder to another location. If you give it some medication with the food, it can also generate an aversion to it.
You can choose a different food just to give your cat the drugs. If you know his favorite food, you can give it to him. Of course, it's not going to be healthy for you just to eat that, but it's always better to eat something than nothing.
Try to expand your menu. Your homemade food is often more delicious than dry food. Presenting warm food helps stimulate the smell and encourages your cat to eat. Cats will prefer cold food.
It will be easier for the cat to accept the food if you distribute it in several portions throughout the day. However, you should never force the cat to eat.
Yes, you can try, in those who are sickest, to encourage them by administering porridge with a syringe, without a needle, on the side of the mouth, behind the fang.
You can make the porridge by grinding any food with a bit of water or using commercial cans indicated for convalescence.
There are drugs that our veterinarian can prescribe for us to control nausea, vomiting, and whet the appetite.
Finally, if none of this works, you will have to go to the vet to feed the cat through a tube.
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