How do cats get the feline leukemia virus and is there any way to treat it if a cat does contract it?
Erin, cats pick up this virus through contact with infected bodily fluids, particularly saliva. So, it can be spread by grooming, sharing food and water bowls and bite wounds. It can also be transmitted to kittens either while they’re in the uterus or nursing from their mom. The virus causes changes in blood cell counts and affects a number of body systems including the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory system, eye and brain. The symptoms vary depending on what organ system is affected.
Some cats fight the virus after infection and clear it from their system. Others develop a latent infection where they don’t become ill and don’t produce or shed virus. Latent infections can reactivate but the longer the infection is latent, the less likely this is to occur. Cats that become unwell after infection can be treated with anti-viral drugs, interferon and supportive care – good nutrition and prompt treatment of any other illnesses that may develop.
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