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Your kitty’s immune system defends it from bacteria, parasites,
and viruses from the outside world. When this defense system
becomes weaker than usual, your feline friend is more vulnerable
to illnesses which can be life-threatening.Weak immune system is
caused due to deficiency of phagocytes, a type of white blood
cell. Phagocytes are vital to the immune system, as they swallow
up any foreign particles in the blood. This process is known as
phagocytosis. Cats with a low deficiency in phagocytosis are more
prone to different types of health problems.
Cats with weak immune systems appear to be healthy for the first
few months after birth. Once they pass the nursing stage, their
bodies become more vulnerable to infections. The symptoms of a
weak immune system are highlighted below:
- Continuous illness
- Mediocre hair coat
- Recurring infections that don’t respond to conventional
- Stunted growth
There may be symptoms from contracted infections and viruses such
as feline immunodeficiency, feline leukemia, and feline
The causes for the weak immune system are the following:
- The cats are born with immunodeficiency disorder, resulting
in a low number of phagocytes.
- The cats get infected with viruses such as feline
immunodeficiency virus, feline leukemia virus and feline
parvovirus. These viruses attack the immune system which affects
the count of phagocytes.
The veterinarian goes through the medical history of the cat and
will ask the owner further details about when the symptoms began.
The vet will then do the following.
- Conduct a physical examination
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Biochemistry profile
Additional testing may be done based on the results of the
Cats who have congenital weak immune system have no known
treatment or cure. Viruses that lead to weak immune system
haven’t been caught early enough to effectively treat the
problem. There is no effective treatment available that can cure
the disease. However, supportive care is used to extend the
feline’s life as long as possible.The vet may resort to the
following in order to treat the secondary conditions that come
with the disease.
- Antibiotics – bacterial infections
- Antimicrobial medications – yeast/fungal infections
The best way to keep your feline friends healthy is to be
proactive. Isolate the cats from other animals and stop them from
leaving your house. Vaccinations have to be administered at the
correct time and the vet will give additional vaccines to help
the cats. Secondary infections are quite common in this disease,
so you will have to visit the vet for medical treatment.The
owners of cats who have weak immune system are requested to stay
away from reproductive practices as it can be passed on to the
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
Cat owners often confuse feline leukemia with
feline immunodeficiency virus (or FIV, also known as feline
AIDS). Like feline leukemia, FIV is caused by a virus. However,
the similarities end there. The diseases differ in many ways
including risk, transmission, and prognosis.
What Is FIV?
Much like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), FIV attacks a cat’s
immune system, reducing their ability to fight off other
infections. An infected cat may be at greater risk of developing
other infections because their immune system isn’t as strong as
that of a healthy cat. Thus, they are at greater risk of catching
what are called “opportunistic” infections—those resulting from
their depleted immune system being unable to fight infections
that a healthy cat may be able to fight off.
A cat’s risk of catching FIV is much lower than that of catching
feline leukemia because experts do not believe that FIV is spread
through routine contact with infected cats but instead
through deep bite wounds such
as might occur during intense territory battles among male
cats. Mother cats can transmit the disease to their kittens,
but in some instances the kittens are not infected by the virus.
Signs of FIV
Many of the signs of FIV look like those for feline leukemia
including fever, lethargy, weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, and
skin and respiratory infections.
Other problems include dental or oral infections, diarrhea, eye
diseases such as cloudiness in the cornea, vomiting, abscesses,
poor coat or hair loss, ear mites,
and ringworm, among others.
Some cats show neurological
problems or anemia. Viewed
individually, some of these infections (like ear mites or
ringworm) are normal problems affecting even healthy cats.
However, a vigilant cat owner should take note when infections
occur at greater frequency, duration, or in concert with other
What if My Cat Has FIV?
FIV is not necessarily a death sentence. Unlike feline leukemia,
many cats infected with FIV can live healthily for many
years, even to a normal life span. If the cat does succumb to
the disease, their death is caused by opportunistic infections or
diseases rather than the virus itself.
Additionally, if you have multiple cats, the risk of transmission
of FIV to other uninfected cats is low as long as they don’t
fight and bite. If they do, you may wish to keep them separate.
Though the risk of transmission is low, the only way to truly put
a risk of transmission at zero is to keep your healthy cat from
contact with infected cats.
It's also recommended to keep cats with FIV inside, so they can't
spread the virus to other cats in the neighborhood.
If your cat has FIV, you do need to take steps to help them live
a long, comfortable life. Because the virus reduces a cat’s
ability to fight other opportunistic infections, you’ll need to
keep a close eye on the state of your cat’s health and
effectively treat opportunistic infections as they arise. That
means taking them routinely for wellness visits to the
veterinarian every six months. You may also speak to your
veterinarian about the type of diet and supplements that may help
boost your cat's immune system.
Protecting My Cat from FIV
The best way to protect your cat from catching FIV is by keeping
them away from potentially infected cats. That may mean keeping
your cat indoors or allowing them only supervised outdoor
access. Neutering and
spaying cats can often help reduce the territorial
battle instincts while keeping such cats from wandering
excessively (and reproducing uncontrollably).
Because of the general low risk of transmission, following these
precautions can be enough to keep your cat FIV-free; however, you
may also wish to consider the FIV vaccine. Talk to your
veterinarian about the pros and cons of the vaccine and whether
it would be a benefit to your cat.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not
meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or
diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your
pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian