Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Thursday, March 27, 2014

When Positive Is NOT A Good Thing

The photo above shows a feline combo or feline leukemia  
(FeLV) / feline immunodeficiency virus test (FIV).  The center blue dot at the top - the 12 o'clock if you will - is the control dot. That dot should appear every single time the test is run as it means it ran correctly. 

The dots you see that are at the 3 and 6 o'clock positions are positives for feline leukemia and FIV, respectively. 

This test is from a stray cat that was brought in the other day by a good Samaritan who has been seeing this cat outside of her home most days for the past year. He was friendly enough to touch and the other day, after going missing for over a day, came back clearly in distress and not moving well.

He was unable to stand and crying and his exam revealed severe infections in three of his four feet, a suspected joint infection in his left elbow (very swollen and painful) and/or trauma to that leg and overall depressed mentation. 

Though the "owner" was willing to take responsibility for further diagnostics, the first thing we always do is this test. This sad case is a perfect example of why we insist upon it. 
With radiographs and other tests and medications potentially adding up to hundreds of dollars, not to mention the likelihood this cat would not recover as expected, this test saves everyone a lot of further heart ache.  The cat included.

This cat has been infected, and is now clearly clinical, with two immunosuppressive feline viruses. He is the poster child for FIV - an un-neutered male cat who has been seen fighting with at least another cat in the area. FIV is spread via fights and bites as well as sexually. Feline leukemia is spread via close intimate contact (grooming, sharing food/water bowls, etc) and transplacentally, meaning it can be passed on to the kittens. 

The kindest thing to do for this cat was to euthanize him. Even if he was not sick and merely positive, he could not live with any other cats AND he certainly should not be put back outside spreading these viruses to other cats, reproducing and potentially creating positive kittens. A cat with one or both of these viruses is also more prone to infections and they are more likely to be serious, therefore they need to be kept inside for that reason as well. 

We know cats can survive a long time with FIV alone. They should be kept indoors. They can live with other cats if there is no intense fighting (enough to cause punctures) among the cats in the household. 

It's the FeLV that's the kicker here. Cats that are infected rarely live past 2-3 years. 

AND this cat has both viruses - truly a no win situation for him.

As we assured the kind lady, it is nice that he didn't have to suffer outside in the cold, unable to get food and water and starving to death outside. Sometimes that's just part of being an animal lover. 

I'll discuss prevention and other aspects of these diseases in my next blog post.


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  2. Dr. Purr - There's a YouTube video in which you are shown dropping off a cat at a PA sanctuary. Wondering why you did not advise the sanctuary owner to build separate quarters for FIV+ cats instead of mingling them with Leukemia+ cats as she does, as FIV+ cats can live a long time if kept away from contagious diseases. Tabby's Place, as you know, would never co-mingle FIV+ and FeLV+ cats.