What is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), commonly referred to as Feline AIDS, is a viral infection that affects domestic cats and other members of the feline family. FIV is similar to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and belongs to the same retrovirus family. However, FIV only affects cats and does not infect humans.
FIV is primarily transmitted through close contact between infected and non-infected cats. The most common modes of transmission include bite wounds, which occur during aggressive fights between cats, and from an infected mother cat to her kittens during birth or through nursing. It's important to note that casual contact, such as grooming, sharing food bowls, or sharing litter boxes, is generally not considered a significant mode of transmission.
FIV affects the cat's immune system, leading to a weakened ability to fight off infections. However, not all cats infected with FIV will show immediate symptoms. The progression of the disease can vary greatly among individuals. Some common symptoms and conditions associated with FIV infection include:
Recurrent Infections: Cats with FIV are more susceptible to various bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. These infections can affect the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and urinary tracts, as well as the skin.
Fever: Infected cats may have intermittent or persistent fevers.
Weight Loss: Gradual weight loss is a common symptom of FIV infection.
Lethargy: Infected cats may become lethargic and show a lack of interest in their usual activities.
Swollen Lymph Nodes: Enlarged lymph nodes are often observed in FIV-positive cats.
Dental and Gum Disease: FIV can lead to oral health issues, including gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Neurological Symptoms: In some cases, FIV can lead to neurological symptoms such as seizures and behavior changes.
There is no cure for FIV, but supportive care is crucial for managing the health of infected cats. This includes managing secondary infections with antibiotics or antifungal medications, providing a nutritious diet, maintaining good dental hygiene, and addressing any other health issues that arise. Regular veterinary check-ups are important to monitor the cat's health status.
FIV has different strains or subtypes, which are classified into various genetic clades. These clades can affect the severity of the disease and the progression of symptoms. However, unlike in HIV infections, FIV genetic variants have not been extensively studied, and their clinical significance is not as well understood.
FIV remains a significant concern for domestic and wild cat populations. Research on FIV continues, with ongoing efforts to better understand the virus, its transmission dynamics, and the best ways to manage infected cats. However, FIV is not a major focus of human medical research, as it does not pose a risk to human health.