Cat AIDS is here!
If you are a cat owner, are you aware of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or Feline AIDS? FIV is a virus which is prevalent in Australia that attacks the immune system of infected cats in a similar way that HIV does to people. FIV is specific to cats and cannot be passed on to any other animals.
It may surprise you to read that studies estimate approximately 1 in 5 outdoor cats in Melbourne are infected with FIV! The virus is spread between cats predominantly by fighting (bite wounds) and so is most common among cats that roam. Once a cat is infected with this virus there is unfortunately no cure and the cat will remain FIV positive for the rest of its life.
After FIV infection the virus may go unnoticed for a long period of time, but it will eventually lead to an immune deficiency that can cause a variety of diseases and symptoms. These may include poor coat and weight loss, chronic diarrhoea, intermittent fevers, chronic infections of the mouth and gums, skin or urinary tract infections, kidney failure, anaemia, inflammation of the eyes, neurological symptoms and susceptibility to various cancers such as lymphoma. Infected cats have a reduced life span and will eventually die from FIV complications.
It can be stopped! Luckily there is a vaccine for FIV available. For protection of adult cats that have been outdoors we can do a simple and low cost blood test to check that they have not already been exposed. We then start them on the vaccination course- 3 injections 2 weeks apart and then a yearly booster. For new kittens they can have the course with their usual kitten vaccinations, however, testing is also necessary to make sure they have not contracted FIV in utero.
If you have a cat that is not strictly indoors we strongly recommend FIV testing and vaccination! Protect your feline friend from this terrible disease and do your part to limit spread of FIV among neighbourhood cats.