Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)
Your cat is your best friend.
We know that you care for your cat and want to ensure that he remains happy and healthy throughout his life and will do all that you can to achieve this.
One easy way in which you can help your cat is to ensure that he is protected from feline leukaemia virus, by vaccinating him as a kitten and annually throughout his adult life.
Why FeLV vaccination is important
FeLV is the number one killer virus in the UK. Any cat that comes into contact with other cats is at risk. One in three cats that catch the virus will go on to develop this fatal disease.
FeLV only infects cats and poses no risk to other pets or humans.
Why you need to vaccinate your cat regularly
For the first few weeks of life, kittens are usually protected against disease from the immunity they receive in their mother´s milk. However, this maternal immunity may also neutralise any vaccine given at this time. Gradually this protection decreases, and the maternal immunity acquired at birth declines to a sufficiently low level for the animal to no longer be protected. This also allows the animal to respond to vaccination and so at this stage it is possible to start the vaccination programme.
Your veterinary surgeon will suggest a programme of vaccinations to fit in with your pet´s particular needs and the local disease pattern.
Many people believe that if they have their pet vaccinated when it is a kitten the immunity it receives will protect it for the rest of its life.
Unfortunately this is not the case.
After the last injection, the immune level reaches a peak and then begins to decline. After a year, the level of protection offered to your pet may no longer be sufficient.
Revaccination stimulates the immune response so that protection is maintained for another year. Without these yearly vaccinations, your pet´s immune system may not be able to protect it from this serious disease.
How vaccines work
Vaccines work by training the white blood cells in your cat´s body to recognise and attack the viruses or bacteria contained in the vaccine. This should prevent infection with that particular organism if your cat is in contact with it again.
Feline Leukaemia Virus
Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) is second only to car accidents as the main cause of premature death in cats in the UK. Infected animals may not show any signs for months or even years, so many more cats may become infected before the warning signs are seen.
The virus is easily spread in saliva and blood, so cats are infected when grooming each other, sharing food bowls and litter trays and when fighting.
Animals are usually infected in the first months of life, but any age of animal including adults and unborn kittens may become infected.
FeLV attacks the white blood cells and bone marrow. This weakens the immune system and makes the cat vulnerable to secondary infections. It also causes anaemia and cancer of the blood, intestines and other parts of the body.
One in three cats that catch the virus will develop the disease. Only early vaccination and regular boosters can protect your cat from the virus.
There is no cure for FeLV.
Blood testing for FeLV
The virus may take a long time to show signs of disease. Therefore occasionally a cat may already be infected with the virus when it comes to the vet for its first vaccination.
Although the vaccine will not do any harm in a cat that is already infected, it will not protect it either, and may lead to a false sense of security.
Your vet can provide a quick and easy blood test that will give a result in just a few minutes. Please discuss with your vet whether this test is of benefit to your cat. High risk animals include stray cats, and kittens from rescue shelters that may not have already been tested or vaccinated.
After your pet has been vaccinated, it will need regular booster vaccinations to ensure it remains protected.
Please discuss with your vet all aspects of vaccination of your kitten and cat throughout its life, the other important infectious diseases of cats, and how you can ensure your cat remains healthy and happy.