Your cat is at risk of contracting FIV if it spends any time outdoors. This includes letting your cat outside to go to the toilet, potentially letting your cat outside in a mesh or wire pen or enclosure and allowing your cat outdoors when you go outdoors.
Vaccinating kittens against Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) before they have outdoor access prevents infection in 66% of cats that encounter the FIV virus. To put this into context the human flu vaccine can only reduce illness (not prevent infection) in 40-60% of the human population each year.
Australia has one of the highest rates of FIV infection in the world and within Victoria 15% of cats in studies that presented to the vet and whose owners agreed to testing were found to be positive for FIV. Given that many cats do not regularly visit the vet the likely infection rate is even higher.
FIV is spread by cats fighting and unfortunately the only way to completely protect cats against FIV is by preventing contact with any potentially infected cats by always keeping them indoors. However, this is often neither practical nor realistic for many Australian cat owners. Therefore, vaccination provides a useful means to help prevent infection.
Why do we want to prevent infection with FIV?
Unfortunately, FIV is not treatable and has lifelong consequences for your cat. Shortly after infection an infected cat may show fever, enlarged lymph nodes and appear tired. As the disease caused by the virus progresses it suppresses the cat’s immune system. Cats are prone to developing various infections and more prone to developing cancer, neurological diseases and chronic inflammation of the gums. Cats can pass away either from these diseases or otherwise from the second stage of FIV where the virus is unable to be controlled by the immune system and becomes terminal. Usually this process occurs over several years.
The FIV vaccination
The FIV vaccination course involves 3 initial doses 2-4 weeks apart. In kittens there is no need for prior testing for FIV and the vaccinations can be done in line with your kitten’s other routine vaccinations. In adult cats that have had any outdoor access a FIV blood test is recommended prior to starting vaccination. The blood test is cost effective, run in the clinic within 10 minutes and only requires a drop of blood.
For all cats after the initial course a yearly booster is then required. This can be administered at the same time as your cat’s other annual vaccination and health check.
The FIV vaccine has an excellent safety profile. In a recent study cats were followed for 2 weeks post vaccination and 98.92% demonstrated no adverse reactions at all. For the remainder, mild lethargy and a mild fever that self-resolved were the most commonly reported side effects, as with all vaccines.
If you have any questions regarding this article or FIV please do not hesitate to contact us at the clinic on 83730301 and chat to one of our helpful vets or nurses. I