FIV (part 2)

FIV (part 2)


Unfortunately, there is currently no definitive cure for FIV. It is important to realize, however, that while it is impossible to predict the survival of a given cat infected with FIV, cats infected with FIV can live ostensibly normal lives for years if managed appropriately. Also, the virus will not necessarily ever cause clinical disease. Whether disease develops depends on many factors including the strain of FIV a cat is infected with, the cat's immune response and the presence or absence of other infectious agents. In a study, FIV infected cats were found to survive just under 5 years on average (from the time they were diagnosed) compared with about 6 years for a similar group of non infected cats.

Cats can carry the virus for a long time before symptoms appear, Therefore, treatment focuses mainly on extending the asymptomatic period or, if symptoms have set in, on easing the secondary effects of the virus. Another aim of managing an FIV infection is to prevent further spread of infection to other cats. Some antiviral medications used in human patients with HIV infection have also been shown to help some cats with FIV infection.

General and supportive treatments should include:

  • Neutering all FIV infected cats to reduce the risk of fighting and spreading infection.
  • Confining FIV positive cats indoors where possible, and keeping them away from non infected cats. This helps prevent spread of infection to other cats and reduces exposure of the FIV infected cat to other infectious agents. Alternatively, create a cat proof enclosure to allow your cat some access to the outdoors without coming in contact with other cats.
  • Maintaining a good quality nutrition using a good commercial food and avoiding raw meat, eggs and un-pasteurised dairy products helps reduce the risk of exposure to parasites and bacteria that might cause disease.
  • Maintaining good routine preventive healthcare (regular flea and worm control, routine vaccinations etc)
  • Ideal veterinary health checks twice yearly – your vet may suggest certain blood tests occasionally to monitor your cats health.
  • Prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment of any secondary or concurrent diseases. Longer courses of antibiotics may be needed to treat bacterial infections if they are slightly immunosuppressed.
Two forms of antiviral therapy are sometimes used in FIV infected cats:

1. Interferons are a group of naturally produced compounds that have anti viral effects and modify immune responses. A recombinant feline interferon (feline interferon omega) is available in some countries and it is possible that using this may have some helpful anti viral and immune modulating effects. It is unlikely to have a profound effect in FIV infected cats, but your vet may suggest trying this as a treatment.

2. Antiviral drugs such as AZT. Some of the human antivirus drugs used to treat HIV are also effective against FIV and can be safe to use (although careful monitoring of cat is needed). These drugs cannot cure a cat with FIV, but especially if the signs of the disease are quite severe, this may be a form of therapy that your vet will offer. Treatment is expensive though and some cats tend to do just as well with good supportive therapy.


Preventing the exposure of cats to the virus is the only certain way to protect the cats. Since cat bites are the major means by which infection is transmitted, cats should be kept indoors, away from potentially infected cats that might bite them. To reduce the chance of indoor cats becoming infected, it is ideal to ensure that only infection free cats are brought into a household occupied by uninfected cats. FIV infected cats should ideally be separated from from other cats, but this can sometimes be difficult in a multicat household.

Due to the fact that the risk of transmission by social contact such as sharing bowls and mutual grooming is low, some owners prefer to keep the household as it is. However, it may be helpful to at least feed cats using separate food bowls, as large amounts of virus are present in saliva. Litter trays and food bowls should also be disinfected after use, to kill the virus.

Vaccines to help protect against FIV infection are now available. The vaccine gives a useful degree of protection and that might therefore be useful in cats at appreciable risk of being Exposed to FIV . The vaccine doesn't give complete protection though as there are multiple different strains of FIV.


The prognosis for FIV infected cats depends on the stage of the disease. If it is diagnosed early, there might be a long time during which the cat is free of clinical signs related to FIV, and not all cats go on to develop an immunodeficiency syndrome. Infection is however permanent, but many infected cats can be maintained and are able to live happily with the virus for a long period of time.
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