Cat and new kitten owners are being urged to speak with their veterinarian about feline immunodeficiency virus. FIV has a high prevalence in Australia compared to most other countries and can cause serious and potentially fatal disease in cats by depressing the immune system. It has also been linked to kidney disease, neurological disease, chronic gingivostomatitis, skin disease and weight loss.
Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health is behind the mission to support veterinarians to minimise the impact of FIV in our cat population—and has assembled the Australian Feline Retrovirus Advisory Panel, an independent panel of feline medicine and veterinary infectious disease experts. The panel have developed guidelines to help veterinarians with diagnosing, preventing, and managing FIV.
Primarily transmitted via bite wounds that introduce saliva containing virus and FIV-infected white blood cells, the virus can leave cats predisposed to chronic and recurrent infections of various types and has been shown to increase the risk of some cancers.
While FIV infection in some cats can have devastating health impacts, it is important to stress to owners that FIV is not a death sentence and does not constitute grounds for euthanasia. Some FIV-infected cats can live a relatively normal life for a protracted period, with a near-normal lifespan. With management and housing conditions impacting the outcomes of FIV infection, owners of FIV-infected cats can support their cat, allowing many to live a relatively normal life.
“Vaccination to prevent infection with FIV is recommended for pet cats whose owners are unable to, or cannot be persuaded to, keep their cats away from the risk of being bitten by an FIV-infected cat,” Australian Feline Retrovirus Advisory Panel chairperson Dr Mark Westman said.
“Sadly, once a cat has been infected with FIV, there is no cure which is why it is important for cat owners to adopt a prevention protocol to ensure cats are safe and protected. Australia has one of the highest rates of FIV infection in the world, however it is also one of the few countries that has access to an effective vaccine.”
Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health manufactures a polyvalent FIV vaccine to prevent FIV infection. The primary vaccination course of three doses given 2-4 weeks apart can be administered to healthy kittens or cats from eight weeks of age to aid in the prevention of infection with FIV, followed by annual boosters.