Never mind the Wookies, be very afraid of the retrovirus stats

May 17th, 2015

A long time ago in a galaxy far,far away a private veterinary laboratory did a remarkable thing. They tested every sample of blood from cats that they received for FIV. Every sample from every cat, and the results were frightening.

Now I have to do two things straightaway. One is to acknowledge George Lucas and his copyright on Wookies and the opening sentence in the excerpt. The second is to say that this really happened in Perth in the early nineties. Every feline blood sample sent to that laboratory was tested, and 1 in 3 tested positive for FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or Feline AIDS). But that was more than twenty years ago and these days vets have educated more cat owners to keep their pets inside and we’ve had a vaccine for quite a few years now and, well things just couldn’t be that bad still, could they?

In this age of corporatisation and cost recovery it seemed very unlikely such a public-spirited survey would ever be repeated. But this year, from various sources, a good estimate of the prevalence of FIV and Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) has been put together, state by state throughout Australia. So let out a cheer parochial Sandgropers ‘cos yes we won! Both for FIV and FeLV. Easily. No, I don’t feel like celebrating either.

You’ll have to read (or scroll but shame on you if you do that!) to the end of the post to get the actual figures but, bearing in mind that the ’90s survey must have included a large proportion of sick cats (otherwise why would their blood have been sent to the lab anyway) and so be a skewed sample group. my take on this is that not a lot has changed, and I find that depressing, profoundly so.

So if we’re in the consult room discussing vaccinations for your cat be prepared that I may be a little more forceful in my recommendations. My advice has always been : If your cats are inside (or their only access outside is to a cat enclosure or walled courtyard which NO other cats can access) then vaccination for the basic diseases required by a boarding cattery (Feline Panleucopenia and Feline Respiratory Disease) is the most that is required. Mind you, if you have more than one cat in your home I’d want to know their FIV and FeLV status  and protect any at-risk cat with vaccination.

BUT, if you can’t/don’t/won’t keep your cat inside then he/she should be tested and  vaccinated for both FIV and FeLV, REALLY! FeLV is spread between cats by social contact (mutual grooming spreads the virus in the saliva from infected cats) and FIV is spread by anti-social contact (cat bites in plain english – you need a deep puncture wound to inject the virus into the tissues).

Yes that will cost you money but with 1 in 25 cats in WA carrying FeLV and a staggering 1 in 5 carrying FIV, will you be counting the dollars when your cat dies of diseases related to immune deficiency or cancer caused by these viruses?

Posted in News