Leukemia in cats

Feline leukemia is a disease caused by FeLV virus (feline leukemia virus) that generates a depression in the animal’s immune system.

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The virus affects the white blood cells of the immune system, causing the animal to have fewer defenses and a greater risk of contracting infections and other complications.

This disease can be found in cats around the world, which can lead to the death of the animal. It is not transmitted to humans. Continue reading this YourCatCareguide article to know all about leukemia in cats .

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It is transmitted between cats through body fluids (saliva, blood, feces, urine, nasal secretions, etc.) or during pregnancy and lactation.

It is typical of cats living on the outside or street cats living in groups or in colonies. When the virus comes into contact with the animal’s immune system, three situations may occur:

  • The cat is immune because it has created antibodies that can fight the virus. You may have symptoms for a few weeks and then stop.
  • The virus enters the blood and saliva, damaging the immune system and causing leukemia. The animal is more likely to contract other diseases. They live no more than two or three years.
  • The virus is eliminated from the blood or saliva but remains dormant in the bone marrow. Although the virus may re-activate, it most likely will not affect your cat.


The symptoms of feline leukemia are very varied and depend on the state of health of the animal. These are some of the most common:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Skin lesions
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Inflammation of the lymph nodes


In addition to taking the symptoms into account, it is necessary to confirm whether the cat actually suffers from leukemia. The following tests may be done:

  • ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay): This test is typical in veterinary clinics. A blood sample is collected from the cat and the presence of the antigen or initial stages of the infection is detected, or not. After several weeks, it will be confirmed if it is positive, since it is not known if the infection is temporary or permanent.
  • PCR (polymerase chain reaction): detects virus DNA in affected cells, both in blood samples and in other tissues. Although it can detect latent infections, it is not available as opposed to ELISA.
  • IFA (direc immunofluorescence): Not useful for detecting initial states, but serves to confirm ELISA positives: Detect the presence of the antigen in infected cells.


Currently, there is no specific treatment to cure this disease. The goal is for the cat to have the best quality of life possible.

The treatment can help the cat to live a few months and even years, and will be based mainly on:

  • Protection against infections (antivirals and immuno-regulators)
  • Avoid stress and give reassurance to the cat.
  • Healthy and balanced diet.
  • Specific treatments for other complications.

Read our article on how long a cat lives with feline leukemia .


These are the main preventive measures to take into account:

  • The main preventive measure is to vaccinate your pet to avoid the onset of the disease. Generally, the vaccine is scheduled in the veterinarian’s vaccination schedule (8 or 9 weeks of life). Vaccination generally has no effect on already infected animals. That way, it is important to ensure that the kitten does not have the disease before adopting it.
  • Positive cats should be kept separately from the negatives to avoid contagion, even if they have been vaccinated. It is not advisable to live together.
  • Disinfect the places where the cat sleeps, the water fountain and the feeder to eliminate the virus.

This article is purely informative, in YourCatCareguide.com.br we do not have the capacity to prescribe veterinary treatments nor to make any type of diagnosis. We suggest you bring your pet to the veterinarian in case of any type of condition or malaise.

If you want to read more articles the similar to leukemia in cats , we recommend you to enter our section of Viral Diseases .


Emily Harris

Hi Guys, Girls, and Cats:-p I am Emily Harris, and you can see in above pic. She loves me I swear. I saved her from a dumpster a few weeks back.

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