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Feline Leukemia (FeLV)
Feline Leukemia Virus Testing & Vaccination

Feline Leukemia Virus is primarily a kitten disease. Kittens are at highest risk of developing the disease if exposed. After 4 months cats become increasingly resistant with adult cats over 1 year being highly resistant to FeLV whether vaccinated or not.

Incubation is an average of 3 years, but can be considerably longer so cats can come down with FeLV disease many years later if exposed before one year of age. Testing and removal by breeders and shelters has had the most impact on reducing the disease .Feline leukemia is transmitted primarily by bites from infected cats. It is unstable in the environment and survives only a few hours. Food bowls and litter boxes are possible but unlikely sources of infection.

FeLV remains as the leading cause of death in cats.

There is no cure for Feline Leukemia. FeLV infected healthy cats can live for months up to 4 years. Once symptoms develop cats can be treated to enhance the quality of life. There is no cure.

We highly recommend vaccination of kittens for FeLV.

Future exposures are hard to predict. Many kittens do not remain indoor cats. Sometimes exclusively indoor cats escape. Most cats do not remain the only cat in the household. sometimes friends or relatives bring cats to visit.

All Cats should be tested prior to or at the time of vaccination because:

1. Vaccination will not prevent disease in previously infected cats.
2. A previously infected cat will develop the disease years later and appear to
be a vaccine failure.
3. You might not want to get attached to a FeLV + cat.
4 Carriers can be asymptomatic for years, and expose other cats in the household
No test is 100% accurate.
Testing during the incubation phase can give a false
negative. Approximately 30 % of cats exposed between 12 wks to 1 yr. will

become naturally immune and will not develop disease. Positive cats should be

retested in 3 months. For the retest we recommend, the IFA test.

Cats over one year of age are highly resistant to Feline Leukemia whether they are vaccinated or not. Unnecessary vaccination should be avoided as FeLV vaccine has been known to cause Injection Site Fibrosarcoma, a terminal type of cancer. You may want to err on the side of caution and vaccinate a high risk cat at one year of age, and then every three years but only with a with a non - adjuvanted FeLV vaccine.


 is dedicated to the education of pet owners
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Copyright (c) 2003. Dr. Robert L. Rogers. All rights reserved.

The Better Business Bureau. Education Foundation
Torch Awards for Excellence in Business Ethics
Presented to Dr. Bob Rogers
for Public Education about New Vaccination Recommendations