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Nearly One Million Cats at Risk of HIV Type Virus

04 December 2015

UK - PDSA is calling for more cat owners to get their pets neutered to protect them from a killer disease - Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) - which is similar to the HIV virus in humans and has no cure, but is easily prevented.

The PDSA revealed that 880,000 cats in the UK are not neutered, meaning they have a much greater risk of contracting the deadly disease.

Many owners remain unaware of the FIV virus, which belongs to the same family of viruses as HIV, and can lead to the breakdown of a cat’s immune system.

Like HIV, cats with FIV can live for long periods where they appear healthy and show no signs of illness, but euthanasia is often necessary towards the later stages of the disease. FIV poses no risk to human health.

With no vaccine available, neutering cats is the best way to protect them as it reduces the chances of them coming into conflict with each other – the primary cause of the virus spreading.

PDSA Vet, Vicki Larkham-Jones, explained that FIV was primarily transmitted by biting, meaning that unneutered male cats have the highest risk of contracting it.

Vicki said: “FIV belongs to the same group of viruses as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and in much the same way as HIV, it depletes the number of white blood cells, meaning they are more prone to infection.

“The virus lives in the blood and saliva of infected cats but, like HIV, it cannot survive long outside the body, so direct contact is usually necessary to spread the virus.

“Once a cat contracts FIV there is no cure, so the best way to protect them is neutering. Thanks to funding support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery we’ll be delivering 30,000 neutering operations this year and educating pet owners about the benefits.

“The procedure is relatively simple and the many health benefits far outweigh the small cost to protect your cat’s long-term health.”

If a cat is diagnosed with FIV it is vital for owners to take steps to protect their pet and prevent the risk of them spreading the disease to other cats.

Vicki continued: “It is vital that an FIV-infected cat is neutered. They also need to be kept indoors to avoid contact with other cats.

“If you have other cats in the household they may also be infected. However, the risk of passing the virus is very low unless they fight. We also recommend feeding an FIV positive cat from a separate food bowl, as saliva can spread the virus.”

Though potentially fatal, thousands of cats live with the condition, and with good veterinary care and support from their owners, most enjoy a good quality of life for many years.

Vicki added: “It is important for owners to remember that FIV poses no risk to their own health, as humans and other species can’t catch it.”

ThePetSite News Desk

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