Feline Immunodeficiency Virus: Is It Always A Death Sentence?

Approximately 1.5 to 3 percent of cats have FIV, feline immunodeficiency virus. The disease, spread through bites, is more predominant in outdoor, aggressive cats that have not been spayed or neutered than it is in indoor cats. This is due largely in part to how the disease is spread. Since it is spread through bites, cats who get into altercations with infected cats are at risk. In some cases, FIV can be transmitted to kittens from their mother. 

The virus usually proves to be fatal for the vast majority of cats. However, it is not an immediate death sentence. Some cats with the virus have months or years of health before they start exhibiting symptoms. Those who already have symptoms may also have periods of remission and relative health that can last months or years.

How Long Can My Cat Live with FIV?

In some cases, death comes very quickly. In others, it doesn't come for several years. For this reason, the amount of time an infected cat has left cannot be calculated easily. However, it is known that about 20 percent of cats die within 4 to 6 years of infection. Over half will continue to display no signs of the disease. Cats who are in the late stages of the disease, exhibiting weight loss and wasting, live less than a year. 

Why Do Some FIV Infected Cats Live Longer?

FIV itself does not kill. Rather, it makes cats susceptible to secondary conditions, such as respiratory disease, skin infections, eye diseases, cancer, blood disorders, seizures, and neurological disorders. The secondary illnesses are what usually result in death. Some cats only experience secondary issues every now and then with long periods of health between. These cats usually live longer. Those who are bombarded with a serious, aggressive disease or multiple diseases usually go quicker. 

Can I Do Anything To Prolong My Cat's Life?

While you cannot stop the natural progression of the disease, there are some things you can do to make sure your cat lives as long as possible. Feed them a healthy diet free of raw meat and dairy, as these can harbor parasites that may attack your cat. Keep your cat indoors to minimize the likelihood that they will contract other diseases. And, finally, take your cat to the vet at the first sign of any illness. Treating and managing secondary illnesses is the best way to keep your cat healthier for longer. 

For more information, contact local professionals like All-Pets Hospital.