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Cat Leukemia (Feline Leukemia Virus)



Your veterinarian will prescribe medication to treat the symptoms and causes for cat leukemia. After that, a yearly vaccination for respiratory and intestinal viruses is recommended. Your cat will not be hospitalized unless it has severe secondary infections, low red-blood cell count or extreme weight loss with muscle loss. In these cases, it will be kept under hospital care until its condition stabilizes. Emergency treatment, such as blood transfusions, is sometimes needed.

Opportunistic infections are another concern. These are infections that occur indirectly because of the animal's weakened immune system (due to the FeLV). Supportive therapy, such as fluids or nutritional supplements, are helpful in these cases.

Diarrhea, kidney disease, or long-term (chronic) muscle loss may require a special diet. Also, infected teeth or gums must be cleaned; teeth extraction is necessary in severe cases.

Living and Management

You will need to monitor your cat for symptoms of infection and keep in touch with the veterinarian regarding follow-up treatment and testing. More than 50 percent of cats that persistently have cat leukemia in their blood (known as FeLV viremic cats) succumb to related diseases within two to three years after infection.

Keep FeLV-infected cats indoors and separated from healthy cats to prevent virus exposure and FeLV transmission. Good nutrition is important, as is controlling any secondary bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections.


Keeping infected cats separated (and quarantining them) is the only way to prevent cat leukemia in healthy cats. There are several commercial FeLV vaccines for the disease available. However, test the cat before initial vaccination, as it may already be infected. 

Image: JENG_NIAMWHAN via Shutterstock

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