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Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Treatment In-depth

Treatment of FeLV infection must be individualized based on the severity of the condition and other factors that must be analyzed by your veterinarian. If your cat has no clinical signs, no treatment may be recommended. In this situation, regular follow-up visits to your veterinarian are important to evaluate your cat for possible progression of disease. If FeLV-induced disease is present, additional treatments may be necessary.

There is no effective treatment that will eradicate established FeLV infection. Supportive care is important, and may include:

  • Antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections
  • Nutritional support
  • Fluid therapy in dehydrated FeLV-infected cats
  • Parasite control
  • Topical medications to treat inflammation of the mouth (stomatitis) if present
  • FeLV-infected cats should be kept inside and isolated from other cats
  • Masses found in FeLV-infected cats should be biopsied and removed as necessary
  • Blood transfusions should be administered on an emergency basis as necessary in FeLV-infected cats with severe anemia
  • Suspected concurrent infection by the red blood cell parasite Hemobartonella felis should be treated in FeLV-infected cats suffering from hemolytic anemia. Tetracycline antibiotics are used against this organism and cortisone-like drugs (e.g. prednisone) also may be used if immune-mediated destruction of red blood cells is suspected.
  • Manage lymphosarcoma (Lymphoma), if present, using cancer chemotherapy drugs. Cancer chemotherapy should be supervised by a veterinary oncologist or a veterinarian who has experience using anti-cancer drugs.

    Drug Therapy

  • Interferon (Roferon-A®) may be used in an attempt to limit viral replication. It is not licensed for use in cats, but has been used by some veterinarians to treat FeLV-infected cats. It may prevent disease development and prolong survival.

  • Other agents that stimulate the immune system potentially could be beneficial in FeLV-infected cats. Examples include diethycarbamazine, Staphylococcal protein A (SPA), Propionbacterium acnes (Immunoregulin) and acemannan (Carrisyn). The effectiveness of these agents is unknown.

  • Zidovudine or azidothymidine (commonly called AZT) is a nucleoside analog that is used to treat human patients with AIDS. AZT may limit virus replication and may prolong survival of FeLV-infected cats, but is was most effective in experimental cats when given very soon after infection. AZT has the potential to cause serious adverse effects (including bone marrow suppression) and should only be administered to cats under the supervision of a veterinary oncologist or a veterinarian experienced in the use of anti-viral medications.

  • AZT) and PMEA have been reported to reduce the severity of chronic mouth infections in cats with FeLV. These drugs have the potential for serious adverse effects and should only be administered to cats under the supervision of a veterinary oncologist or a veterinarian experienced in the use of anti-viral medications.

  • Bone marrow transplantation has been performed in some affected cats and may correct low white cell counts, but cats remain infected with FeLV. This experimental procedure would only be available at a small number of veterinary research institutes.

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