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C2006-17

Dear Christopher Cat

We adopted Max, who tested positive for the feline leukemia virus. So far, he seems healthy, and we’d like to keep him that way as long as possible. What special care does he require?

Christopher Responds

Our family fostered a leukemia-positive cat last year. Mom kept her away from us so we wouldn’t be exposed to the virus, but she told me about her care, so I can advise you.

The feline leukemia virus (FeLV) suppresses the immune system, so Mom kept the cat indoors to protect her from disease and injury.

FeLV also causes anemia and a type of cancer called lymphosarcoma, so it’s important that Max see a veterinarian every six months for a checkup and blood work.

At home, weigh Max on a baby scale every month. If he loses weight, make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately, because weight loss is often the first sign of a problem.

Feed a high quality commercial cat food. Avoid raw meat and unpasteurized milk to minimize the risk of food-borne infection.

Dry food will keep Max’s teeth and gums healthier than canned food, which sticks to the teeth and promotes tartar and gingivitis.

Gum disease frequently progresses to infection elsewhere in the body, especially in FeLV-positive cats.

Don’t bother to try herbs, antiviral medications or drugs that stimulate the immune system, because studies indicate they are not effective in FeLV-infected cats that show no signs of disease.

Special care can extend the life of an FeLV-positive cat, and Mom and I thank you for giving Max that chance. We hope you enjoy many good years with him.

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