What You Don't Know About Your Cat's Health Could Harm Your Feline Friend

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a Leading Cause of Disease in Cats,

But Many Cats Remain Undiagnosed -- Learning About FIV and Requesting a Simple

Test Could Help Protect the Health and Prolong the Lives of Many



Apr 03, 2001, 01:00 ET from American Association of Feline Practitioners

    NASHVILLE, Tenn., April 3 /PRNewswire/ -- All across America, more than
 59.1 million cats add warmth, joy and companionship to our lives.  In return,
 cat owners want to provide their cherished feline friends with the best
 possible care.  Unfortunately, many owners fall short, simply because they
 don't know about a potentially fatal disease or that all cats should be tested
 for it.
     "Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), the feline version of human
 immunodeficiency virus (HIV), is a chronic viral infection cat owners need to
 know more about," says Jim Richards, DVM, director of the Cornell Feline
 Health Center at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.  "FIV suppresses a cat's
 immune system, so it cannot protect against other infections.  So whether
 healthy or sick, every cat should be tested for FIV because infection can be
 devastating, not only to the health of the infected cat, but to other cats."
     Like HIV, FIV infection eventually results in acquired immunodeficiency
 syndrome (AIDS), as the virus causes a gradual decline in the immune system's
 ability to protect against infection.
     "Since FIV is highly specific to cats," Richards adds, "owners don't need
 to worry about contracting AIDS from their pet.  Based on findings of several
 studies, we believe FIV poses no health risk to cat owners, veterinarians or
 others in close contact with FIV-infected cats."
 
     FIV: Leading cause of disease in cats
     Feline health experts now recognize FIV as a leading cause of disease and
 death in cats(1), with as many as one of 12 U.S. cats testing positive(2).
 This statistic concerns experts, who suspect the viral infection may be
 underdiagnosed because many cat owners are not aware of the infection or that
 their cats should be tested for it.
     No vaccine exists to protect against FIV infection, but there are steps
 cat owners can take to protect the health of their pets.  The first step is to
 ask a veterinarian to test for FIV because early diagnosis can make a huge
 difference in a cat's long-term health.  Since the early signs of FIV
 infection are either nonexistent or common to many other diseases, cat owners
 may not notice them.  So the only way to tell if a cat is infected is by
 testing.
 
     Early detection provides peace of mind
     Avoiding exposure to FIV-infected cats is the only way to prevent
 infection.  That's why the American Association of Feline Practitioners is
 encouraging all cat owners to have their cats tested.  Once FIV infection
 status is known, veterinarians encourage cat owners to confine FIV-positive
 cats to reduce the chance of spreading the virus to other cats.
     "Early FIV detection is an important part of caring for cats," explains
 Lynn Buzhardt, DVM, a companion animal veterinarian and owner of The Animal
 Center, Inc., Zachary, La.  "By knowing the FIV infection status of a cat, the
 cat's owner and veterinarian can work together to make critical decisions
 about medical care and protect the health of other FIV-positive and -negative
 cats.  And knowing your cat's health status provides peace of mind."
 
     Living proof that FIV isn't an automatic death sentence
     Although there is no cure for FIV infection, a positive test result is not
 an automatic death sentence.  FIV-infected cats may live for years with no
 signs of clinical disease.  Take Tootler, an FIV-positive male cat who's about
 10 years old.
     When Bill and Danna Snodgrass moved into their home northwest of Zachary,
 La., they didn't intend to adopt every cat that showed up on their doorstep.
 It only seemed that way.  Right away, the Snodgrasses adopted three cats
 belonging to the previous homeowner.  Shortly after the death of one cat, they
 found a friendly feline in a tree at the end of their driveway.  Then, much to
 Bill's chagrin, he was adopted by a hungry black cat with a missing tooth.
     "One winter night, I found a scrawny cat sitting on a shelf in the
 garage," Snodgrass says.  "I already had three cats and wasn't exactly
 thrilled to see him. But when Tootler showed up again six weeks later, I
 realized he was a survivor and he had adopted us.  We've had him ever since."
     A conscientious cat owner, Snodgrass took Tootler to The Animal Center for
 a physical exam, tests, vaccinations and neutering.  That's when he learned
 his new pet was infected with FIV.
     "My first reaction was that FIV infection is not good," Snodgrass recalls,
 "but I wasn't going to let it affect my decision to keep him.  I thought
 Tootler was a good cat and that I'd keep him until his final days, even though
 I didn't know how long that might be.  It never crossed my mind to have him
 euthanized."
     That was four years ago.  Today, Snodgrass says, "Tootler appears healthy
 and has a beautiful, shiny jet-black coat.  He's living proof that an
 FIV-positive cat can live for years with no outward signs of disease."
     Caring for a cat infected with FIV is relatively inexpensive, according to
 Buzhardt, but requires teamwork by the cat's owner and veterinarian.
     "One of the most important things a cat owner can do for an FIV-infected
 cat is to protect its health," she explains.  "FIV-positive cats need a
 stress-free indoor environment to reduce their risk of exposure to other
 infections, good nutrition that supports the immune system and possibly more
 frequent veterinary examinations."
     For example, by keeping an FIV-infected cat indoors and away from
 free-roaming or stray cats, an owner can protect the pet's health and prevent
 the spread of FIV.  It is also important for a cat owner to recognize the
 signs of other diseases and talk to a veterinarian about those signs as soon
 as they are noticed.  Early recognition and aggressive treatment of other
 diseases can make a big difference in the pet's health.
 
     About the American Association of Feline Practitioners
     Founded more than 30 years ago, AAFP ( http://www.aafponline.org ) is a
 professional organization of veterinarians who share a common interest in
 providing excellent care and treatment of cats.  The association seeks to
 advance feline medicine and surgery by sharing knowledge, rewarding
 advancements in research, sponsoring continuing-education programs, supporting
 American Board of Veterinary Practitioners certification in feline practice
 and encouraging veterinary student interest in feline practice.
 
     References
     1.  Proprietary market research. Data on file, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc.
     2.  Pedersen NC, Barlough JE. Clinical overview of feline immunodeficiency
         virus. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1991 Nov 15;199(10):1298-305.
     3.  Proprietary market research, 2000. Data on file, IDEXX Laboratories,
         Inc.
 
     A message from the American Association of Feline Practitioners.  Made
 possible by an educational grant from IDEXX Laboratories, Inc.
 
 

SOURCE American Association of Feline Practitioners
    NASHVILLE, Tenn., April 3 /PRNewswire/ -- All across America, more than
 59.1 million cats add warmth, joy and companionship to our lives.  In return,
 cat owners want to provide their cherished feline friends with the best
 possible care.  Unfortunately, many owners fall short, simply because they
 don't know about a potentially fatal disease or that all cats should be tested
 for it.
     "Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), the feline version of human
 immunodeficiency virus (HIV), is a chronic viral infection cat owners need to
 know more about," says Jim Richards, DVM, director of the Cornell Feline
 Health Center at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.  "FIV suppresses a cat's
 immune system, so it cannot protect against other infections.  So whether
 healthy or sick, every cat should be tested for FIV because infection can be
 devastating, not only to the health of the infected cat, but to other cats."
     Like HIV, FIV infection eventually results in acquired immunodeficiency
 syndrome (AIDS), as the virus causes a gradual decline in the immune system's
 ability to protect against infection.
     "Since FIV is highly specific to cats," Richards adds, "owners don't need
 to worry about contracting AIDS from their pet.  Based on findings of several
 studies, we believe FIV poses no health risk to cat owners, veterinarians or
 others in close contact with FIV-infected cats."
 
     FIV: Leading cause of disease in cats
     Feline health experts now recognize FIV as a leading cause of disease and
 death in cats(1), with as many as one of 12 U.S. cats testing positive(2).
 This statistic concerns experts, who suspect the viral infection may be
 underdiagnosed because many cat owners are not aware of the infection or that
 their cats should be tested for it.
     No vaccine exists to protect against FIV infection, but there are steps
 cat owners can take to protect the health of their pets.  The first step is to
 ask a veterinarian to test for FIV because early diagnosis can make a huge
 difference in a cat's long-term health.  Since the early signs of FIV
 infection are either nonexistent or common to many other diseases, cat owners
 may not notice them.  So the only way to tell if a cat is infected is by
 testing.
 
     Early detection provides peace of mind
     Avoiding exposure to FIV-infected cats is the only way to prevent
 infection.  That's why the American Association of Feline Practitioners is
 encouraging all cat owners to have their cats tested.  Once FIV infection
 status is known, veterinarians encourage cat owners to confine FIV-positive
 cats to reduce the chance of spreading the virus to other cats.
     "Early FIV detection is an important part of caring for cats," explains
 Lynn Buzhardt, DVM, a companion animal veterinarian and owner of The Animal
 Center, Inc., Zachary, La.  "By knowing the FIV infection status of a cat, the
 cat's owner and veterinarian can work together to make critical decisions
 about medical care and protect the health of other FIV-positive and -negative
 cats.  And knowing your cat's health status provides peace of mind."
 
     Living proof that FIV isn't an automatic death sentence
     Although there is no cure for FIV infection, a positive test result is not
 an automatic death sentence.  FIV-infected cats may live for years with no
 signs of clinical disease.  Take Tootler, an FIV-positive male cat who's about
 10 years old.
     When Bill and Danna Snodgrass moved into their home northwest of Zachary,
 La., they didn't intend to adopt every cat that showed up on their doorstep.
 It only seemed that way.  Right away, the Snodgrasses adopted three cats
 belonging to the previous homeowner.  Shortly after the death of one cat, they
 found a friendly feline in a tree at the end of their driveway.  Then, much to
 Bill's chagrin, he was adopted by a hungry black cat with a missing tooth.
     "One winter night, I found a scrawny cat sitting on a shelf in the
 garage," Snodgrass says.  "I already had three cats and wasn't exactly
 thrilled to see him. But when Tootler showed up again six weeks later, I
 realized he was a survivor and he had adopted us.  We've had him ever since."
     A conscientious cat owner, Snodgrass took Tootler to The Animal Center for
 a physical exam, tests, vaccinations and neutering.  That's when he learned
 his new pet was infected with FIV.
     "My first reaction was that FIV infection is not good," Snodgrass recalls,
 "but I wasn't going to let it affect my decision to keep him.  I thought
 Tootler was a good cat and that I'd keep him until his final days, even though
 I didn't know how long that might be.  It never crossed my mind to have him
 euthanized."
     That was four years ago.  Today, Snodgrass says, "Tootler appears healthy
 and has a beautiful, shiny jet-black coat.  He's living proof that an
 FIV-positive cat can live for years with no outward signs of disease."
     Caring for a cat infected with FIV is relatively inexpensive, according to
 Buzhardt, but requires teamwork by the cat's owner and veterinarian.
     "One of the most important things a cat owner can do for an FIV-infected
 cat is to protect its health," she explains.  "FIV-positive cats need a
 stress-free indoor environment to reduce their risk of exposure to other
 infections, good nutrition that supports the immune system and possibly more
 frequent veterinary examinations."
     For example, by keeping an FIV-infected cat indoors and away from
 free-roaming or stray cats, an owner can protect the pet's health and prevent
 the spread of FIV.  It is also important for a cat owner to recognize the
 signs of other diseases and talk to a veterinarian about those signs as soon
 as they are noticed.  Early recognition and aggressive treatment of other
 diseases can make a big difference in the pet's health.
 
     About the American Association of Feline Practitioners
     Founded more than 30 years ago, AAFP ( http://www.aafponline.org ) is a
 professional organization of veterinarians who share a common interest in
 providing excellent care and treatment of cats.  The association seeks to
 advance feline medicine and surgery by sharing knowledge, rewarding
 advancements in research, sponsoring continuing-education programs, supporting
 American Board of Veterinary Practitioners certification in feline practice
 and encouraging veterinary student interest in feline practice.
 
     References
     1.  Proprietary market research. Data on file, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc.
     2.  Pedersen NC, Barlough JE. Clinical overview of feline immunodeficiency
         virus. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1991 Nov 15;199(10):1298-305.
     3.  Proprietary market research, 2000. Data on file, IDEXX Laboratories,
         Inc.
 
     A message from the American Association of Feline Practitioners.  Made
 possible by an educational grant from IDEXX Laboratories, Inc.
 
 SOURCE  American Association of Feline Practitioners