FIV is one of the most concerning diseases for pets. Feline Immunodeficiency virus is like HIV in humans; it attacks the animal’s immune system, weakens it over time and increases the vulnerability to other infections. Though uncommon, it is a contagious disease with serious impacts on the cat’s health and well-being.
In this post, we discuss all you should know about FIV including its stages, life expectancy and treatment to help cat owners care for their infected pets and ensure their long and healthy lives.
FIV In Cats Life Expectancy
A lot of pet owners wonder how long their FIV-positive cat would live. The good news is that these cats can live a normal and full life just like their healthy counterparts. With appropriate care and disease management, FIV-infected cats can experience normal longevity. This is because the asymptomatic stage of the disease lasts for years when the cat lives a normal and healthy life. During the later stages, the cat has an increased vulnerability to infections and diseases. However, if treated on time, the cat can recover and get healthy.
To increase the life expectancy of a cat infected with FIV, the owners should see that their pet stays indoors most of the time. this will reduce their exposure to viruses and bacteria and limit their chances of catching secondary infections. These cats should be fed balanced food with proper nutrition. They should also receive appropriate therapies and treatments to improve their body’s defense system.
It is not uncommon that some cats die within about two years after their diagnosis with the disease. However, some other FIV-positive cats can live a healthy life for up to ten years.
Cat FIV Stages
FIV attacks the immune system of the infected cat and lowers its defense system. It is a slow-acting virus that enables the felines to live a long, healthy life with little signs of illness. Some pets, however, progress into the later stages of the disease. Cat FIV infection generally has three main stages.
The Initial Stage or the first stage of FIV occurs for 4-6 weeks after the cat catches the virus. In this stage, the cat’s lymph nodes get swollen and the number of white blood cells decreases. Infected cats experience fever, lethargy, weight loss, diarrhea and appetite loss. However, this stage is short and often goes unnoticed.
The Asymptomatic Stage or the second stage of FIV is when the virus lies dormant in the cat’s body without any diseases or symptoms. For most cats, this stage lasts for years which is why FIV-infected cats live normal, healthy lives.
The Chronic Stage of FIV normally known as the Feline Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome stage is highly prone to secondary infections. during this stage, the feline can get different types of infections and finds it difficult to recover. This stage is often responsible for an FIV-infected cat’s death.
End Stage FIV Symptoms
When the virus has compromised the feline’s immune system severely to the point where it is impossible to recover from infections and diseases, it is known to be the final or end stage of the condition. During this stage, the cat is likely to develop different types of health problems ranging from serious skin infections and chronic inflammation of the mouth to upper respiratory tract infections and even different types of cancer.
During this stage, the cat also becomes highly vulnerable to parasites, fungi and bacteria that multiply and cause infections. when a feline progresses to this stage, the survival chances are low to none. opportunistic microorganisms can attack the immune system and take the form of different infections. The most common skin infections seen during the end stage of FIV include chronic gingivitis, ulcerative stomatitis and inflammation of the gums.
Some other symptoms of end stage FIV are gastrointestinal problems like chronic diarrhea resulting from weight loss, parasites, fungi and bacteria. Cats in this stage also show immunological issues like anemia, leukopenia, swelling and cancer of the lymph nodes. Veterinarians generally resort to euthanasia in this FIV stage in cats.
FIV Treatment Cost
While there is no cure for FIV, infected cats can live a good-quality life if they are regularly taken to the vet for preventative care. Treatment involves controlling and curing the secondary infections. It mainly focuses on increasing the period the cat is asymptomatic and easing the symptoms of effects if they have already set in. Asymptomatic FIV-positive cats should be kept indoors to limit their risk of diseases and infections. They also receive a balanced diet and proper nutrition for a healthy life.
FIV-infected cats often visit the vet twice a year for regular tests and check-ups. Any underlying conditions should be addressed with medications including anti-inflammatory, immune-enhancing and others that work for viral infections. Cats who are ill also receive supportive care with fluid therapy and electrolyte replacement.
Treatment for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus can be quite expensive. You can expect to spend $150 to $2000 per treatment depending on the medications the vet prescribes and surgeries needed. The cost of treatment also varies based on the condition of the cat and the duration for which it requires the treatment.
When To Euthanize Cats With FIV?
FIV infection is not a reason in itself to euthanize a cat. A lot of people, including some vets, believe that FIV-positive cats should be euthanized and not adopted. However, the truth is that many infected cats can lead a healthy, normal life just like uninfected pets. FIV does not spread like HIV or has its own serious symptoms and signs. While there is no treatment for FIV, most cats live for years before their immune system is affected.
When to euthanize a cat with FIV is a decision that the owner can take keeping the best interest of the pet in mind. It comes down to assessing the quality of life the cat is leading. If your cat has started facing a lot of infections, has progressed to the end stage of FIV and does not show any sign of recovery, you can consider euthanasia. While the family can make the right decision for the pet, your vet can help with recommendations. A few cats die peacefully while others reach a point where the decision to euthanize must be made.