A Monto vet is urging cat owners to be aware of a rise in feline AIDS. Photo/File
A Monto vet is urging cat owners to be aware of a rise in feline AIDS. Photo/File

Vet warns of rise in deadly cat disease in North Burnett

A North Burnett vet is warning Monto cat owners to be cautious after they recently diagnosed multiple cats with Feline Immunodeficiency virus otherwise known as feline AIDs.

Dr Carrie Grace from Monto Veterinary Services said the deadly disease, once contracted will start attacking the cats immune system.

“This gradually weakens the immune system making the cat more vulnerable to infections and will eventually cause the cats death,” Dr Grace said.

“This is a specific cat only disease and represents no risk to humans.

“Cats contract the disease by the swapping of blood and saliva. This mainly occurs through fighting, biting and scratching.”

After a cat becomes infected there is a variable period of time in which the virus can be in the body before the cat gets unwell. This time period can extend up to 10 years.

Initially the infection will cause lethargy, decreased appetite and possibly some diarrhoea.

As the disease progresses and the cat’s immune system is further weakened cats will show signs of weight loss, scruffy appearance, recurring infections such as urinary tract or respiratory tract infections and non-healing wounds.

Dr Grace said unfortunately there is no cure for feline AIDs.

“Cats that have tested positive may live for many years with feline AIDs, therefore once positive it is hard to determine the life span, however, if cats have severe illness, persistent infections and weight loss the prognosis is generally less favourable,” she said.

“Positive cases should have six monthly to yearly check-ups with blood testing to make sure they are healthy and their organs are functioning well.

“It is also important to keep the cats preventive care of intestinal worming and parasite control up to date.

“As weight loss is a big part of the virus, it is important to keep the cat on a good quality diet that is high in protein to make sure adequate dietary intake is maintained.”

As an owner of a positive FIV cat it is important you keep them locked inside to reduce them spreading the disease throughout the cat population.

Diagnosis is done in clinic with a simple blood test.

Dr Grace said her clinic regularly performs a test that checks for FIV specific antibodies.

“The body’s immune system naturally produces antibodies in response to the presence of FIV. A positive result to this test indicates exposure to FIV and can be detected around 60 days after the cat is first infected,” she said.

“Cats that have been previously vaccinated will also produce antibodies and will be positive on the test, giving us a FALSE positive.

“If a cat is detected positive for FIV via an antibodies test and has a history of being vaccinated in the past, we will send a blood sample to an external laboratory for diagnostic confirmation.

“Kittens tested for FIV can sometimes have these antibodies, this can come from their mother’s milk which interferes with test result, again giving a false positive.

“If kittens do test positive, then they should be retested once they have reached 6 months of age to make sure that the positive test result was correct.”

For cats that test negative to the disease the best prevention is vaccination.

The vaccination course is three vaccinations given under the skin two weeks apart.

If you are interested in checking your cat and protecting your cat against this deadly disease, please contact Monto Veterinary Services on 0741661285