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Name: Andrea
Status: Educator
Age: 50
Date: 10/16/2004

I just adopted a cat from a friend last week, when I went to have him checked out at the vet they told me that he has feline leukemia. Of course they don't know how far along it is, so I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about the stages of this disease. To be more specific I was wondering if possibly watering eyes has anything to do with it.

Dear Andrea

sorry i am not a veterinarian but a chemist and also a very dedicated feline lover. Surely you will get very good answers by the scientists vets at NEWTON. Still since the time urges i asked something about from a very good american vet and also a friend of mine. Here is her answer:

"A positive test result means that a cat has been exposed to the feline leukemia virus. It's a good idea to confirm a test done in the office, which is the common procedure here in the States, with a different test done at a lab facility. Some cats exposed to the virus will throw it off and become negative but you usually don't notice that and, by the time the cat is tested, it may just be negative. But they might also want to test again in 3 months to see if the cat has gone from positive to negative.

This doesn't mean that the cat has leukemia. That name was given to the virus several decades ago. Actually, cats positive for the virus are more susceptible to other diseases, like respiratory disease, GI problems, etc. Also lymphoma. All because the virus affects how their immune system functions.

If a cat remains positive, it can still lead a good life but the chances are that it won't live as long as a healthy cat. But with good nutrition, living indoors so there isn't a lot of exposure to unhealthy stuff, jumping on any illnesses asap, and, perhaps, using drugs like interferon alpha or Immunoreglan to stimulate the immune system, these cats can do well. This virus is fairly easy to pass from cat to cat. (Unlike FIV which is hard to pass.) So a positive cat should really not be exposed to other cats. There's a vaccine against FeLV but it isn't 100% effective.

The watery eyes could mean that the cat has a respiratory disease (cat cold). In a positive cat, this could be more of a threat than a negative cat so the owner should follow up.

As far as the progression of the disease. One common scenario is for a cat to become sick with something like a respiratory disease and not be able to fight it off and end up just sicker and sicker. Another thing that is fairly common is for a cat to become anemic. They'll often rebound well with a blood transfusion but the anemia typically recurs. And the blood transfusions become less and less effective until the cat is so anemic that it is suffering. This is sort of a quick, general overview. Let me know if you want anything else more specific."

Hope that helps.

And thanks for asking NEWTON!

(Dr. Mabel Rodrigues)

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