Treatment

There is no effective cure for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, but supportive care and treatment of resulting secondary illnesses is important.  Treatment and supportive care can include but is not limited to, visiting the veterinarian regularly, feeding a well-balanced diet, preventing parasites, and spaying or neutering.

Shedding

FIV-positive cats will always have the feline immunodeficiency virus present in their saliva once infected. That being said, they will shed the virus through their saliva, which is why it is so important to prevent cats fights where a bite wound could occur.  Other cats are not at risk of contracting the disease from a cat shedding the virus, unless they come into contact with the infected saliva, such as through a bite wound.

Treatment At The Vet

Once your cat has been confirmed positive for FIV, it is time to make a treatment plan with your veterinarian.  Your vet may suggest that your cat is treated with antiviral medications, in addition to other medications to aid in recovering from any secondary illnesses that may occur. He or she may also suggest a spay or neuter procedure if that has not already been done, as well as routine visits to the animal clinic.  Talk to your vet about the best treatment protocol for your cat.

Regular Vet Visits

If your cat has FIV, it is recommended that you visit the vet at least every six months.  Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination, a complete blood cell count, a blood chemistry panel, and a urinalysis to identify any problems that may have developed, and to address them early.  A cat with FIV can live a long and happy life, however it is important to have your cat routinely checked for any health problems due to a weakened immune system.

Spaying and Neutering

The procedure of spaying and neutering a cat greatly decreases the risk of transmission.  While this is a form of prevention, it is also recognized as a treatment method.  Cats that are intact tend to be more aggressive and get into more fights, therefore increasing the risk of bite wounds.  Once a cat is determined FIV-positive, if he or she is not already spayed or neutered, a vet will typically perform the procedure to protect other animals from risk.

Antiviral Medications

Antiviral medications can reduce the amount of a virus in a cat, however these medications can have many negative side effects and may outweigh the benefits.  Many antiviral medications can cause bone marrow suppression, so cats should have a complete blood cell count (CBC) test frequently. Talk to your veterinarian to find out if an antiviral medication is right for your cat.

One common medication includes Zidovudine (AZT), which is used in veterinary medicine to treat FIV.  Antiviral drugs such as AZT, can also be used as human antivirus drugs to treat HIV.  This drug cannot ‘cure’ a cat with FIV, but this may be a form of treatment that your vet will suggest. Common side effects of the drug include anemia and neutropenia (low number of neutrophils, which is a type white blood cell), as well as issues with the liver and gastrointestinal functions.  If this medication is used, your cat’s blood count should be routinely monitored.  This medication is prescription-only, and the most common form is in tablet form.

A synthetic hormone supplement known as Erythropoietin is also used.  It can be prescribed to raise the red blood cell count of an FIV-positive cat suffering from anemia.  FIV-positive cats treated with Erythropoietin will typically have an increase in red and white blood cell counts, without an increase in virus loads.

Other Medications

In addition to antiviral drugs, other medications may be prescribed by your veterinarina to aid your cat’s body while it’s defenses are weakened.  Lymphocyte T-Cell Immunomodulator is a USDA-approved treatment aid for cats with FeLV and/or FIV. This drug increases the number of lymphocytes, which are cells of the immune system that help fight infection.  It may also help cats that are severely anemic by improving red blood cells counts.

Secondary bacterial and fungal infections are a common problem in cats with FIV.  A weakened immune system allows infected cats to be susceptible to other severe and potentially life-threatening illnesses. The use of antibiotics and antifungal medications can often improve a cat’s condition for a period of time if a resulting illness does occur. Cats that take medications may develop a loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea, so it is important to monitor your cat while administering any drugs.

At Home Care

Supportive care is a very important step in the treatment of FIV-positive cats.  Since there is not a cure for the disease, you can help your cat live a long, healthy life by providing a healthy diet, by keeping your cat inside, and by controlling parasites.  Since an FIV-positive cat can go years without showing symptoms even after diagnosis, it is important to make sure that you are taking care of your cat’s immune system and overall well-being.

Diet

Providing your cat with a highly nutritious diet is essential in order to promote good immune function.  You can use a good commercial cat food, and avoid raw meat, eggs, and unpasteurised dairy products to reduce the risk of exposure to parasites and bacteria that might cause disease.

Keep Your Cat Indoors

If your cat has FIV, it is suggested that you limit his or her exposure to other potential infectious diseases, and reduce the spread of disease to other cats by keeping your cat indoors.  If your cat enjoys being outdoors, you can create a cat enclosure that allows access to the outdoors, while preventing your cat from coming into contact with other cats.

There is some debate among the animal welfare community as to whether or not FIV-positive cats should be allowed outdoors, and it is becoming more widely recognized that cats that have been spayed or neutered can be outside and around other cats. Community cats are an especially hot topic, regarding whether or not an FIV-positive community cat should be released back into a colony.

Flea, Worm, And Other Parasite Control

It is important to treat and prevent any parasites from infecting your cat.  With a compromised immune system due to FIV, parasites can be especially harmful and suppress the immune system even further, leaving the body vulnerable to many diseases.  For more information on parasitic worms in cats, check out Worms.pet.

Medications

Once evaluated, your veterinarian may prescribe medications to treat your cat’s secondary illnesses at home.  These could include anti-fungal or antiviral medications, anti-nausea drugs, or other drugs that may be necessary based upon each individual cat’s health. Follow your vet’s instructions exactly, and finish administering the medication even if your pet does not seem to be sick.

TOP 5 FAQ

How accurate are FIV tests?

When should an FIV cat be taken to the vet?

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Where is FIV most common?

FIV infections are most common in free-roaming, outdoor male cats, in addition to cats in crowded living conditions.

How do you treat FIV in cats naturally?

Since FIV weakens a cat’s body’s defenses, it is important to support the immune system with good nutrition and stress management.  It is recommended that you avoid feeding raw meats, and instead feed a cooked, homemade diet.  Decrease stress by making your cat as comfortable as possible at home, and eliminate any known stressors.

Is feline immunodeficiency virus contagious?

The primary form of transmission is through deep bite wounds, as the virus is always present in an infected cat’s saliva.  The virus is not typically spread through shared items such as cat bowls or toys, but it is best practice to regularly clean shared equipment.

OTHER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Is FIV dangerous?

The feline immunodeficiency virus weakens a cat’s immune system, which can leave the cat susceptible to other severe, and life-threatening diseases.  A cat can live a happy, long life with FIV, but it is important to treat any resulting illnesses or diseases that occur to ensure the health of your cat.

Why should I spay or neutur my cat?

Spaying and neutering can reduce aggression in cats, and therefore reduces the risk of cat fights.  FIV is primarily transmitted through deep wounds that occur during fights, as the virus is always present in an infected cat’s saliva.  A spay or neutered cat’s chances of contracting the disease are significantly decreased.