ANSWER: Feline Leukemia Virus is the causative agent of the most frequent fatal disease complex of cats. Infection probably occurs primarily by ingestion of the virus, which is present in the saliva, respiratory secretions, feces, and urine. Transfer across the placenta to unborn kittens and through the mother’s milk are also known to occur.
The period between initial exposure to the virus and the development of infection or immunity is variable. The symptoms of Feline Leukemia Virus infection are inconsistent and may involve any organ in the body. Symptomatic treatment is available but the long-term success rate is very poor. Cats which appear to recover can remain carriers themselves. Feline Leukemia Virus is not transmissible to people, dogs, or animals other than cats. As with many other diseases, prevention is the best way to handle this disease. A vaccine is available from your veterinarian. It is best to test for this disease before vaccinating. All outside cats should be protected from this deadly virus.
Dr. Dan Meakin is the owner of All Creatures Animal Hospital, 1894 Ohio Pike in Amelia. Call 513-797-PETS (7387).