Feline leukemia (cat leukemia) is one of the most prevalent diseases in
cats and currently there is no known cure, although palliative treatment
can be given to ease the symptoms of the disease. It is extremely
prevalent among cat communities and is very distressing to watch a cat
suffering, knowing that nothing can be done to cure it.
Prevention is the only option. Cats should be given vaccinations
as soon as they are old enough and boostered either one or three-yearly
depending on the make of the vaccine and your veterinary surgeon's
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The virus enters the animal through the nose and mouth from contact with other infected cats. Initially it infects the pharynx. Because of the close proximity to the lymph nodes in the neck the virus then infects the lymphoid tissue and from there passes into the lymphatic system and to all the lymph nodes in the body. Eventually the virus will enter the bone marrow and shut down the cat's immunosuppressive capabilities and he will succumb to any bacterial infections affecting the major organs of the body. He is likely to contract severe pneumonia, kidney failure and tumors.
The feline leukemia symptom that most people know about is the sudden change in general condition to listlessness or physical weakness. Added to this is a reluctance to groom regularly or effectively, plus a lack of appetite and a change in personality and disposition. His eyes will look dull and he will drool, and he will show a lack of interest in what is going on around him. When you know that he is not himself and you suspect illness it is vital that you give your cat veterinary expert help rather than allow him to suffer as the progress of the disease is extremely severe.
Diagnosis is easily confirmed by blood test which will show massive infection.
The vet will be able to support you and your cat in dealing with this dreadful illness and may be able to try an number of steroid or immunosuppressive drugs to try and control the spread and severity. Intravenous therapy may help to boost the blood volume and flush out the toxins in his blood. However it is not a good prognosis and cats will eventually succumb to the overriding stress put on its body by the onslaught of viral and bacterial infection. Unfortunately he may have to help you come to terms with putting your cat to sleep rather than let him suffer, if it is felt this would be the kindest thing to do.