Concept

Feline leukemia virus

Summary
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a retrovirus that infects cats. FeLV can be transmitted from infected cats when the transfer of saliva or nasal secretions is involved. If not defeated by the animal's immune system, the virus weakens the cat's immune system, which can lead to diseases which can be lethal. Because FeLV is cat-to-cat contagious, FeLV+ cats should only live with other FeLV+ cats. FeLV is categorized into four subgroups, A, B, C and T. An infected cat has a combination of FeLV-A and one or more of the other subgroups. Symptoms, prognosis and treatment are all affected by subgroup. FeLV+ cats often have a shorter lifespan, but can still live "normal", healthy lives. The signs and symptoms of infection with feline leukemia virus are quite varied and include loss of appetite, poor coat condition, anisocoria (uneven pupils), infections of the skin, bladder, and respiratory tract, oral disease, seizures, lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes), skin lesions, fatigue, fever, weight loss, stomatitis, gingivitis, litter box avoidance, pancytopenia, recurring bacterial and viral illnesses, anemia, diarrhea and jaundice. Asymptomatic carriers will show no signs of disease, often for many years. The disease has a wide range of effects. The cat can fight off the infection and become totally immune, can become a healthy carrier that never gets sick itself but can infect other cats, or a mid-level case in which the cat has a compromised immune system. Nevertheless, the development of lymphomas is considered the final stage of the disease. Although it is thought that virus protein has to be present to induce lymphomas in cats, newer evidence shows that a high percentage of FeLV-Antigen negative lymphomas contain FeLV-DNA, indicating a "hit-and-run" mechanism of virus-induced tumor development. Once the virus has entered the cat, there are six stages to a FeLV infection: Stage One: The virus enters the cat, usually through the pharynx where it infects the epithelial cells and infects the tonsilar B-lymphocytes and macrophages.
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