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2-Year Old Cat Feline Leukemia

May 31, 2010
Little Black Short Haired Feline Leukemia Infected Cat

Tiggy Eating After Near Death!

Feline Leukemia Virus Complicates an Already Devastating Illness

105.6F Fever & Swollen Lymph Nodes & More in a Young Cat!

Tiggy looked up at Doc Truli from the discomfort of a plastic laundry basket. He gave a sad little meow.

“We noticed he wasn’t eating, then we saw his one testicle is swollen,” said Tiggy’s mom.

The little short-haired black cat had one testicle swollen four times bigger than normal. Chains of lymph nodes under the right and left sides of his jaw line bulged under Doc’s sensitive fingers.

Tiggy have a fever of 105.6!

Veterinarians Often Advise Euthanasia for Ill Feline Leukemia Infected Cats

“We called a different vet before we came here. She said I’d have to put Tiggy down over the phone. She didn’t even give him a chance!” said Tiggy’s mom.

Many veterinarians advise humane euthanasia for a sick cat diagnosed with antibodies to Feline Leukemia virus because the virus tries to shut down the body’s ability to heal, making treatment long and costly. Many cats die in spite of proper and thorough treatment because of the effects of the Leukemia virus.

However, some cats do not die! Or they do not die that week, month, or year. If a family understands clearly that their cat may not recover, and they are willing to commit the time and emotion and money into trying to help the cat live, then Doc Truli believes it is a doctor’s responsibility to offer treatment options, not just death options.

“Make no mistake–Feline Leukemia Virus is deadly sooner or later–and the treatment of an ill, Leukemia infected cat may be considered “extraordinary treatment” by some. If anyone feels they have been ripped off by huge vet bills, and their cat passed away anyway, I hope the chance of a miracle and the hope for a good life helps you feel more comfortable with the expenditure,” says Doc Truli.

“Tiggy is deathly ill. But, miracles are unlimited. And a doctor should advocate for life. Do you understand Tiggy is likely to die no matter what we do?” said Doc Truli.

“Doctors should advocate for life,” said Doc Truli.

“Yes, doctor. Please, please, please try,” said Tiggy’s mom.

Supportive Care Leaves Space for a Miracle to Work on the Body

Deadly Immunosuppressive FeLV Virus Found

Tiggy received IV fluids, blood work, dewormer, and antibiotics. He still looked weak and tired after a day of treatment.

“We need to remove the abscessed, infected testicle. It keeps seeding infection into his body. Plus, Tiggy tested positive for Feline Leukemia virus. The virus weakens his immune system and antibiotics need a strong immune system to work with them,” said Doc Truli.

“The surgery could take away the last of his strength, or it could give him a chance to live. If we do nothing, Tiggy won’t make it,” said Doc.

“I understand, I trusted you from the minute you said you were for life,” said Tiggy’s mom.

Tiggy Needs Surgery

Late Friday afternoon, after the sick little black cat had 24 hours of time and medicine to gather his strength, he underwent anesthesia and a surgery to remove the deadly infection.

Regular Cat Castration Surgery

The surgery was not a straightforward neutering procedure. Usually, a small 1 inch (2.2 cm) incision is made just over the scrotum and the slippery testicles pop out easily. They are clamped or tied to prevent bleeding and the tiny incision closes without the need for stitches.

Unusual Cat Castration Surgery

In Tiggy’s surgery, the diseased testicles stuck to the inside of the skin. They were swollen, hard, and scarred into the body. Plus, the massive pus-filled infection travelled 2 inches (about 4 cm) down the testicular cords and into the body.

Doc carefully separated the diseased tissue and removed all the infection. Then, the abnormally large (2in/4cm) incision came together with tiny stitches.

Even if the surgery went perfectly, any irritation or slow-healing would invite infection in this immunocompromised Feline Leukemia infected cat.

He handled the anesthesia well and woke up with no complications. However, Tiggy did not want to eat and he looked depressed in spite of impressive painkillers.

Nursing Care Key to a Chance for Recovery

“He’s going home tomorrow. You’re going to have to nurse him and be sure he eats. Plus, he still has the terrible virus that is trying to kill him,” said Doc Truli.

“I know, I know. But he has a chance,” said mom.

The next morning Tiggy looked hydrated. He was awake, and he had no pain from the surgery. But his core rectal temperature was 99F. A cat is supposed to be 101-102.5F. 99 could mean his body was trying to shut down and die.

Doc Truli warned Tiggy’s mom again. Tiggy was in grave danger. The nurses taught syringe-feeding and spoke with his mom for 45 minutes before Doc heard a voice calling down the fluorescent-lit hospital corridor.

Miracles are Real!

“Doc, come look at this!”

There was Tiggy on a towel on the treatment table, his mom and his nurse hovering over him…while he chowed down a whole bowl-full of canned cat food!

Another miracle granted! I don’t know how long Tiggy has to live, but he has a fighting chance. And he’s not leaving the world this weekend!

Feline Leukemia Virus Facts

How Feline Leukemia Virus is Acquired

Feline Leukemia Virus is a retrovirus for cats. The Feline Leukemia gets into the body through saliva, licking, grooming, sharing dishes, hissing through screen windows, intimate sexual contact and bite wounds from fighting.

Why is a Retrovirus so Awful?

Retrovirus is a special term saved for viruses that can insert themselves back into the DNA of the infected host, thus hiding from the body and wreaking havoc!

Tests for Feline Leukemia Virus

Antibody Test

In most countries, a blood test to detect Feline Leukemia virus antibody is performed on the cat. If the cat was infected only 30-60 days before the test, the virus might not show yet. For this reason, keep all new cats away from your current cats for 60 days until you can be certain the new cat is not carrying hidden contagious disease.

Antigen Test

There’s another, more exact test, called immunofluorescent antibody. Usually, this test is performed on a bone marrow aspirate sample. The fluorescent antibody is a molecular key. If it finds the Leukemia Virus lock it is made for, it will hold tight. Then the fluorescence will not wash away from the sample, and can be detected by the lab technician. This test confirms the presence of the virus.

Feline Leukemia Cure?

There is no cure for Feline Leukemia and the virus is highly contagious between cats. Be safe. Get your cats tested, keep them indoors, and do not introduce unknown cats to your household ecosystem.

Feline Leukemia Prevention

A further note about the Feline Leukemia Virus vaccine: the best prevention is keeping your cat indoors and away from strange, untested cats.

An adult cat 1 year or older has about 75% natural immunity to the virus and the vaccine adds another 75% to the remaining 25% (follow?). There is a confirmed 1:1,000 cat chance of the vaccine actually causing your cat to grow a painful, fast growing cancer called Vaccine Associated Fibrosarcoma. Think very carefully before you vaccinate your cat! Keep your cat indoors for the best protection!

Feline Leukemia FAQ:

Q: Should I bring a FeLV infected cat inside with my other cats, as long as I vaccinate the other cats?

A: Most vets say no. It’s an ethical and moral question. How would you feel if one of the other cats came down with a deadly disease because you wanted to bring the infected cat home?

Some people do it anyway. They say, “there are limited homes for these cats. This infected cat is probably going to die. Life is better than no life.” So they bring the infected cat into their home and hope their own cats do not get sick. This can be an expensive proposition, because every time someone gets sick, they’ll have to be tested. Because of the 60 day pre patent period when the infection may not show on a test, you will not be certain if you have harmed your existing cat.

Q: Should I just put the infected cat back outside where he came from?

A: No. I believe this is immoral and cruel. The cat will become ill with no home environment to succor him. Also, you will knowingly allow the virus to spread through the outdoor cat population causing disease and suffering.

This dilemma is a top reason many people humanely euthanize a cat that hates being contained indoors and will continue to spread the virus.

At the very least, if you are going to put the infected cat back outside, have it altered to decrease sexual activity and fighting, both of which enhance spread of the Feline Leukemia Virus.

Q: I don’t want to the wrong thing by the infected cats or my cats at home, what else can I do?

A: There are kind people throughout the world who run homes for cats infected with feline leukemia and homes for feline Aids infected cats. Also, many people consider the introduction and household building of only infected cats to be a viable option. That way, they do not infect anyone healthy and they can enjoy the company of other cats for the rest of their lives.

In the US, Craig’s List often has posts for homes needed or homes available. An animal hospital might display the cat for you for a boarding fee until a family with no other cats, or only infected cats comes along. The last time Doc Truli did this, it took 18 months to find a “forever home.” But we succeeded in the end!

More About Feline Leukemia Virus from the Cornell University Feline Health Institute.

If you are researching Feline Leukemia Virus, be careful to differentiate the virus from the cancer, Leukemia, which can be triggered by the virus, but can also arise on its own without the virus.

A Final Note

If your cat is diagnosed with Feline Leukemia virus, do not panic. Think about your beliefs, and your options. If you disagree with your veterinarian’s ethical stance and strongly feel you wish to treat the cat and offer the cat a home, just realize you carry that responsibility. You cannot delegate or pay anyone else enough money to deal with your feline leukemia cat problem. The vet might take 1-2 years to find your cat a home. Your cat may recover from illness, only to become sick monthly. It will be an interesting and hopefully fulfilling journey!

If you wish to share Feline Leukemia stories with VirtuaVet’s readers, feel free to post them here. Everyone needs a little hope with this devastating Diagnosis!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 4, 2010 11:01 pm

    My cat is sick 😦


  1. 2-Year Old Cat Survives Massive Infection « VirtuaVet | Make your pet foods Home & save !

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