Get the Facts About Feline Leukemia

Feline leukemia is surprisingly common, and many cat families are not aware of the extent of the risk. By understanding more about feline leukemia and its symptoms and treatments, you can learn when to call your veterinarian and what steps to take if you think your cat could have it. Here are the facts you need to know about feline leukemia and how it could affect your cat.

Feline leukemia is not actually cancer.

When researchers initially discovered feline leukemia, they thought that it shared traits with leukemia in humans and was a kind of cancer. Since then, researchers have discovered that feline leukemia is a viral infection, not a form of cancer, but the name has never been updated. Although feline leukemia is not cancer, it can increase the risk that your cat will develop cancer because it suppresses the immune system.

The symptoms of feline cancer are not always easy to recognize.

When a cat develops feline leukemia, his or her symptoms may develop so slowly that you might not notice them until the condition has progressed. Often, cats with feline leukemia are diagnosed in the second stage of the disease, called secondary viremia. At this stage, cats often lose weight, have inflamed gums, and experience diarrhea, seizures, and fever. During the initial stage of the disease, you may not notice any symptoms, but your cat may become ill more frequently than normal. This is because his or her immune system is suppressed. If your cat becomes ill, your veterinarian may recommend that he or she be tested for feline leukemia in addition to treating the acute infection.

There is a vaccine for cats who have not been exposed to the virus.

Your veterinarian can provide a feline leukemia vaccine that can prevent some infections. It will not prevent your cat from getting feline leukemia if he or she has already been exposed to the virus or if he or she is exposed to a strand that is not covered by the vaccine even after he or she has been immunized. Your vet can help you decide if the vaccine is right for your pet.

If you’re concerned about feline leukemia, schedule an appointment for your cat at Chastain Veterinary Medical Group. Though there is no cure, vets can provide a number of treatments to help your cat feel better. To make an appointment at one of our veterinary hospitals, call Meadow Brook Animal Hospital in McKinney at (972) 529-5033 or by calling Preston Road Animal Hospital in Dallas at (972) 239-1309.

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