What is feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)?
- It is a retrovirus of the genus Lentivirus.
- It is closely related to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Note: Humans are not susceptible to FIV.
- FIV is present worldwide in domestic cat populations.
- The most likely populations to be infected are sick adult cats, free-roaming cats and male cats
- The mode of viral transmission is via biting. Infected queens can also transmit the virus to her kittens. Viral transmission is relatively low within stable household populations.
- Even though the body can mount an immune response, infected cats remain persistently infected. Infected cats generally remain healthy until immunodeficiency problems arise.
- The virus mainly causes immunodeficiency and, as a result, predisposes the infected cat to secondary infection - viral, fungal, bacterial and parasitic.
- The disease is generally seen at 4 years.
- The clinical manifestations that most frequently appear include stuffy noise (rhinitis), enlarged lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy), chronic inflammation of the mouth (gingivostomatitis) and weight loss.
- The two most common tests that are available are in-house based ELISA and the Western blot analysis.
Management of infected cats
- Never euthanase infected cats. With management infected cats can live just as long as uninfected cats.
- Isolation can protect from other infections.
- Neutering may reduce aggression and transmission.
- Health checks – recommended to have a clinical and weight monitoring every 6 months.
- Routine vaccinations – the vaccination of FIV sero-positive cats is controversial and must be discussed with your local veterinary surgeon.
- Supportive therapy: antiviral therapy – feline interferon-omega.
- The vaccination is commercially available in South Africa.
- Vaccination can invalidate the serological diagnosis of FIV
- Please discussion FIV vaccination with your local vet prior to vaccination.
Source: Feline Immunodeficiency - ABCD guidelines on prevention and management. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (2009) 11, 575-584.
(Dr Angus Campbell, September 2011)