As a veterinarian in McKinney, TX, I see patients come in with symptoms of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), which is in the same family of viruses as the more-familiar Feline Leukemia Virus. Cats infected with this virus may never actually become ill, but infection often eventually leads to a state of immune deficiency that hinders the cat’s ability to ward off diseases from other organisms. These infections are the cause for many of the diseases associated with FIV.
The virus is most commonly spread between cats when they fight and bite wounds occur. Feral, aggressive cats are considered primary reservoirs of infection; outdoor cats that may encounter these are at higher risk of infection than those confined to the home. Friendly play and normal close contact is not thought to be a likely mode of viral transmission. It is also possible for female cats to spread the infection directly to their kittens via the placenta or milk during nursing.
After the virus is transmitted to a cat, the virus travels via the bloodstream to local lymph nodes, which may become noticeably enlarged. Alert owners may notice these, and they may call a veterinarian in McKinney, TX. A fever may accompany this stage of infection. The immune system in the vast majority of cats controls the onset of disease symptoms at this stage, and they usually don’t become noticeably ill.
Once infection compromises the immune system’s ability to fight off disease from other microorganisms (other viruses, bacteria, fungi), symptoms develop as the cat becomes ill. Signs of disease vary, depending on the offending organism and the bodily tissues affected. A cat can become progressively ill, or incidents of disease can be characterized by recurrent illnesses interspersed by periods of relative good health.
Again, symptoms depend on what the secondary organism is, and what gland or tissue it infects. A dry and rough hair coat is often seen, and a persistent fever may occur. Some more common clinical signs include:
Chronic, gradual weight loss
Intermittent upper respiratory infections
Inflamed gums and oral cavity
Development of a dull hair coat that is often unkempt
A variety of optic abnormalities
Several forms of neoplasia including lymphoma
Poor coat condition and persistent fever with a loss of appetite are also commonly seen. Often present are inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and mouth (stomatitis) and chronic or recurrent infections of the skin, urinary bladder, and upper respiratory tract. Persistent diarrhea can also be a problem, as can a variety of eye conditions. Various kinds of cancer and blood diseases are much more common in cats infected with FIV, too. In unspayed female cats, abortion of kittens or other reproductive failures have been noted. Some infected cats experience seizures, behavior changes, and other neurological disorders.
If your cat has displayed any of the symptoms listed above, take them to a veterinarian in McKinney, TX for examination. Infection will be diagnosed by antibody tests, which detect the presence of antibody in the blood of infected cats. To schedule an appointment, call Stonebridge Animal Hospital at 469-507-2433.