Cat Leukemia

Cat Leukemia

Since the early 1900s, viruses have been known to cause cancer in animals. In 1964, a virus called the feline leukemia virus (FLV) was found in a household of cats with a high percentage of leukemia cases. Since 1964, major development shave been made in understanding the nature and transmission of this virus, detecting it in the cat population, and studying leukemia and other disease states attributed to the virus. In this writing, there is no evidence that the feline leukemia virus can infect humans or other animals. A vaccine that protects cats against the virus is available.

Lymphoma is a cancer of the blood-forming cells more specifically, the lymphoid tissue (such as the lymph nodes). The virus FLV is spread by the saliva and urine of infected cats, and it can also be transmitted in the uterus to unborn kittens and in the milk to nursing kittens. Since it is found in the blood, such blood-sucking insects as cat fleas and mosquitoes probably transmit the FLV to other cats. For some reason, not all cats that are infected with the virus get leukemia. It seems that the cats that develop antibodies to the virus do not get the disease, which is why the vaccine works.

Forms of the Disease

There are three recognized forms of lymphoma: chest, abdominal, and adulation. The signs that your cat shows will depend on the lymph nodes or organs involved.


In this form, the enlarged chest lymph nodes compress the windpipe and esophagus, and fluid may accumulate in the chest. Your cat will experience breath-in difficulties, coughing, and gagging.


Malignant cells may be found in the intestine, lymph nodes, liver, spleen, and kidney, causing a loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, and anemia.


The lymph nodes under the skin will be greatly enlarged, and tumor formation can be found in many organs, including unusual locations such as the eyes or brain. The cat may or may not have a fever.

Cat Leukemia Treatment

Many of the signs of lymphoma (leukemia) are also seen in other treat-able diseases; therefore, your veterinarian will have to perform some or all of the following tests to reach a definite diagnosis of lymphoma: a complete blood count, blood chemistries, X-rays or ultrasound of the chest and/or abdomen, ab one marrow or lymph node biopsy, endoscope, and an examination of the chest and/or abdominal fluids. There is also a specific blood test for the presence of FLV. This test should be done

  • 1. on a new cat before it enters a household of cats or a cattery;
  • 2. before you breed a tom or queen (be sure the cattery is certified FLV-free);
  • 3. if your cat shows any of the signs of lymphoma;
  • 4. if your cat has a chronic disease, such as mouth ulcers or anemia, that does not respond to treatment (the virus seems to suppress your autoimmune system and make it difficult to fight off infections).

If in a multiple-cat household, one cat has lymphoma or a positive test, all the cats should be tested. If this first test is negative, the cats should be retested in three months, because the virus has a long incubation period.

If your cat’s illness is diagnosed as lymphoma, some veterinarians will recommend treatment; others will recommend euthanasia. The virus can be trans-mitt ed to other cats. FLU-positive cats should be isolated until they achieve a negative status. If they do not, the cats should be removed. Many cats that are treated for lymphoma with anticancer drugs or supportive therapy, such as blood transfusions.

fluids, vitamins, or steroids, do not respond well. Some will be in remission for one year or longer. If your cat with lymphoma passes away Doris etherized, discard its feeding bowls, litter pans, and bedding and clean the premises thoroughly (ordinary household cleaners suffice). Do not bring another cat into the house for thirty days after the removal of the infected cat.

The feline leukemia virus is also thought to play a role in a certain kidney ailment called gloomier, in reproduction problems such as infertility, a din the “kitten mortality complex” – the sudden and unexplained death of newborn and young kittens.

See more: Cat Lameness

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