Feline Leukemia

Feline leukemia virus is the cause of one of the most common fatal infectious diseases of cats. The virus attacks many body systems. Immune suppression leads to other illnesses such as chronic upper respiratory diseases, wounds that won't heal, abscesses, cats with generalized failing health, anemia, cancer, death of newborns, and kittens that don't thrive and then die.

Transmission of the virus is through urine and saliva. Communal litter areas and food dishes can serve as sources of infection. Kittens may obtain the virus from their mothers before birth. The most common route of infection is through cat bites.

Due to potential lifestyle changes surrounding the acquisition of a new cat or kitten, we recommend testing all new felines with unknown history before introducing them to your current household. If your cat tests negative for the virus, we recommend vaccinating them for the first year of their lives with you. If your cat remains indoor-only, further boosters may not be necessary. Discuss any changes to your pet's routine with your vet at their annual wellness visit.

Feline leukemia vaccines are given to kittens ideally at about 7-8 weeks of age, and boostered 3-4 weeks later. After that, the feline leukemia vaccine is given a year later followed by annual vaccinations.

We ask that all patients receive a full examination before vaccines are administered. Certain underlying health problems, which may be difficult to recognize, can interfere with vaccine efficacy. Additionally, if your pet is incubating an infection, vaccines may complicate the problem. For these reasons, Dr. Warren wants to ensure that your pet is healthy and in suitable condition to receive the vaccines. During the examination visit, Dr. Warren and our technicians will discuss necessary and recommended vaccines and help determine the vaccine protocol that will best serve your pet.

WSVMA, Infectious Diseases of Dogs and Cats and their prevention [pamphlet], Snoqualmie, WA.