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indoor cat tested positive for FeLV? Need advice!

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone,

On a routine check-up yesterday my seven year old tabby, Chibi, tested positive for FeLV with the Elisa test. I don't understand how this could have happened because she tested negative when she was younger and has not since been in contact with any cats other than my other six year old cat, Spike. I even live in a second story apartment. (I took Spike in later the same day and he tested negative) The vet said that she might have gotten it from fleas? She has had a few of those but not many.

What makes everything even worse, is that I was planning to leave for Japan in three weeks because I got a scholarship to study abroad. I already felt terrible having to leave them for four months before all of this. They were going to stay with my mom, but she has another cat and said that there is no way to keep Chibi apart from her cat and Spike. Also if she is sick, I don't want to put her through something so stressful. The vet said that we won't know for sure if she has it until she can be retested four weeks later?

Looking on the internet I found sites that said that the Elisa test is very reliable (which my vet also said) and also sites that said it is not reliable. I just don't know what to do. Right now I have the cats separated in my apartment. Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks for reading.
post #2 of 16
When I was concerned about my new kitten and testing, I did learn that there is such a thing as a false postitive test and that another should be run.

I have never heard that a cat can get this from fleas. My understanding is that it is a cat to cat transmission that requires repeated exposure through mutual bathing, or fighting.

Also, a kitty can, I believe test positive if they've been exposed to the FeLV, but not necessarily suffer from the disease. That said, those kitties can still be carriers, I think.

Always ask for a second test. Someone here mentioned that there is a more stringent test that gets sent to a testing center, one step beyond the office test. Perhaps ask for that.
post #3 of 16
oh boy, I can sympathize. When i read the threads that come up on FeLV my heart goes out to anybody who has had to confront it. We lost our Freddie, the light of our family, in 2003 at only 7 mos. That said, your case is different, as your girl (wonderful name, by the way) is seven! I do know that a cat can be a carrier of the virus and it will not necessarily show up until much later in life, due to age or some type of immunity compromise due to stress or a major change in the cat's life or environment. I also have not heard it pass from fleas, but flea evolution is also a subject that the medical/veterinary community is paying more attention to.

The Elisa test is reliable but a full blood test, not just a snap test, is needed here. FeLV is one of the most elusive of the "F" diseases because it morphs and changes appearance - every cat is different in the way it manifests itself.
I would ask for a CBC (complete blood count/panel) which will be the most accurate and be able to give you/your doctor a total view of Chibi.

Only you can decide on your plans and this site is a wonderful, supportive and informative place to be. We all will help you through this.

If you use the search function above and type in FeLV, you will pull up a wealth of information, experiences, and other links.


Welcome to TCS
post #4 of 16
You need to understand the nature of FeLV and what the tests are actually testing for. When a cat is exposed to FeLV, their system starts working to ward off the disease. An Elisa test will indicate exposure to the virus, not the actual disease. Therefore you will hear things about "false positives", as the Elisa test by itself is not conclusive. It might be accurate in testing for exposure, but not the actual disease.

A cat's system typically takes about 30-60 days to fight off the virus. If they cannot, the virus moves into their blood stream and they will get full blown FeLV. The IFA test must be run to prove it one way or the other. If the second Elisa test still shows positive, then ask for the IFA test. This will be a full blood draw that must be sent to a lab. Most vets don't run it as there is an over dependence on the Elisa test. My former vet had to look up the protocal on it because he had never run one in all his years of practice. A simple CBC will not diagnose the disease - it might show that their system is a little out of kilter, but won't prove anything.

Cats cannot get FeLV from fleas. It takes either a serious contact with another infected cat (mating or fighting), or long term exposure through casual contact (mutual grooming, etc). That long term exposure is typically months of contact, not just days.

You will find mixed literature on testing protocals. More recent studies have shown that a cat's system will respond one way or another to the virus in 30 days, therefore a month wait before a repeat test. Others will claim 60-90 days. I split the difference and usually retest in 45 days and if there are 2 positives in a row, I'll ask for the IFA test. It's more expensive and will take some time to return the results from the lab.

If one of your cats test positive, it is wise to get your entire household tested if nothing else than to determine what you are up against. Your situation is rather bizarre. If these 2 cats have lived together for 7 years without exposure to other cats, then my guess is that the test results are wrong. That can happen.

If your vet thinks that a cat can contract the disease from fleas, they are not very versed on the disease and I would recommend 1 of 2 things: if you really like your vet, challenge them to get some current literature on the topic so that they can be prepared to help you through your ordeal, or find another vet. There has been a lot of research done on the topic since the advent of AIDS - the diseases are actually somewhat similar in nature. I also think it odd that your vet runs an Elisa test as part of an annual physical, particularly on cats that don't have exposure to any other cats. That is a waste of money.

And if you have had your cats vaccinated against FeLV, the odds that they would ever contract it drop from about 33% to about 10%. An adult cat that is fully vaccinated rarely gets it.

Sending that this is a simple problem with the test. Your situation just doesn't indicate that your cat has the disease.
post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
I had a CBC done right after she tested positive and the vet said it looked fairly healthy... something was a little too high (I can't remember what) but I remember he said her white blood cell count was normal.

It is possible that she was exposed before we moved to the apartment when we lived with my mom, but I had her vaccinated then. I stopped vaccinating only when we moved to the apartment and there was no chance of her getting outside. That was four years ago and she has been perfectly healthy. Spike had some kind of mystery illness a few years ago, but tested negative then, too.
(BTW the vet tested her because I was going to get her vaccinated again before taking her back to my mom's for my trip)

So it seems like either the test is wrong, or one of them has had the disease all along in some form that wasn't detected previously? Is that possible? Should I ask them to do the Elisa test again to double-check?

thanks again!
post #6 of 16
I would definitely get her retested, I'd go straight to the IFA test as well, but this is my take on the situation: I personally do not believe in false positives, they are very very rare, but false negatives I think are more common. I have read literature, what or when I don't remember, of course but it said that the leukemia virus can "hide" and will not show up on the standard ELISA test, but this does not mean that your cat doesn't have it, it can "reappear" at any time. Chibi could possibly have a very strong immune system that keeps her leukemia hidden most of the time, so that's why Spike has not contracted it.

I take in leukemia cats exclusively and I have cats that are fabulously healthy, are never sick. I have others who seem to be chronically ill FeLV is by and far one the most misunderstood and just plain strange diseases out there. I really and truly hope that some arrangement can be worked out for Chibi while you are abroad
post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by katiemae1277 View Post
I would definitely get her retested, I'd go straight to the IFA test as well, but this is my take on the situation:
If you are leaving in 3 weeks, then I would agree to go straight to the IFA test. If she has the disease, she's had it for a long time now and it will prove one way or the other.
post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Well, I called my vet about the IFA test and they did not know what I was talking about at first, but looked it up and said that they can do it. (I tried another vet first that a friend recommended but they just insisted there was no such thing as an IFA test for FeLV!) So I am going to take her back in next week to be retested. I just hate that she is having to go through this – she is a very shy cat and hates even going in for a check-up. Thank you again for the help – I will let you all know what happens.
post #9 of 16
I dont know about any of that!! Does your cat look or act sick in anyway?? (not that that means a thing)

It must be so stressfull knowing you have to leave, and not knowing for sure if your cat is sick or not!!

Sending good your way!!
post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
I took Chibi back to the vet yesterday and had her tested again with both the Elisa and the IFA. She tested positive again with the Elisa test (although it was a faint positive) but I just found out that she tested negative on the IFA.
From what I have been reading, it is possible for a cat with a latent infection to test negative on both tests, but would it be possible to be Elisa positive and IFA negative in this case? It sounds more like she has been recently exposed, but I know isn't possble unless flea transmission is possible. I did find this study while searching for info:

http://www.springerlink.com/content/ddth1e36apyld1y3/

What do you all think?
post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Serval View Post
I took Chibi back to the vet yesterday and had her tested again with both the Elisa and the IFA. She tested positive again with the Elisa test (although it was a faint positive) but I just found out that she tested negative on the IFA.
From what I have been reading, it is possible for a cat with a latent infection to test negative on both tests, but would it be possible to be Elisa positive and IFA negative in this case? It sounds more like she has been recently exposed, but I know isn't possble unless flea transmission is possible. I did find this study while searching for info:

http://www.springerlink.com/content/ddth1e36apyld1y3/

What do you all think?
Here is an article on the subject.
As far as I understand it, maybe ELISA test was false positive. Or your cat was exposed to Felv and maybe is shielding it in the bone marrow. Maybe it's been exposed a long time ago as a baby.
http://www.acfacats.com/felv.htm
post #12 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Serval View Post
I took Chibi back to the vet yesterday and had her tested again with both the Elisa and the IFA. She tested positive again with the Elisa test (although it was a faint positive) but I just found out that she tested negative on the IFA.
From what I have been reading, it is possible for a cat with a latent infection to test negative on both tests, but would it be possible to be Elisa positive and IFA negative in this case? It sounds more like she has been recently exposed, but I know isn't possble unless flea transmission is possible. I did find this study while searching for info:

http://www.springerlink.com/content/ddth1e36apyld1y3/

What do you all think?
Thanks for finding that article. That is very interesting that they've shown that fleas can carry FeLV in their blood. I had not seen that before.

If your vet had to look up the IFA test, they are not very well versed in the disease. There is so much contradictory information about it on the internet, that the only person I would trust for advice is a vet that specializes in cats, preferable one that keeps up with the current research on the disease.

When I had an outbreak in my house, I ended up calling Dr. Elsey (the inventor of Cat Attract), who happens to be my friends vet. He did this for me because my friend had just adopted 2 kittens from me (his new patients) at the time that FeLV was in my household. He works with a veterinary university to keep current. That is the type of vet you want to consult right now. Perhaps call some cat specialists in your area and ask for their qualifications and if one seems to work, ask for a phone consultation?

I'd personally side with the IFA results over the Elisa results. I know you are crunched for time right now.
post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Momofmany View Post

If your vet had to look up the IFA test, they are not very well versed in the disease. There is so much contradictory information about it on the internet, that the only person I would trust for advice is a vet that specializes in cats, preferable one that keeps up with the current research on the disease.

...... Perhaps call some cat specialists in your area and ask for their qualifications and if one seems to work, ask for a phone consultation?

I'd personally side with the IFA results over the Elisa results. I know you are crunched for time right now.
This is EXACTLY what I feel is the best advice. Find a specialist or ask for a second referral. Any vet with an ethical bone in their body would refer you.
This is very vexing!!
post #14 of 16
how very confusing I know that the Cornell University of Veterinary medicine is one of the leaders in infectious disease research, maybe try to get in touch with someone there? here's a link to their website http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/
post #15 of 16
This is a disease I am very passionate about, I have dealt with this for many, many years and I just want to tell you if your 2 cats are very close it may be very stressful for them to be separated, stress is the number one cause for activating the FeLV and causing symptoms if your cats is really positive. That said, you absolutely need a new vet, yours is clueless. I had Bailey my positive from the age of 5 months when he tested positive (he was tested for the first 3 years of his life and remained a faint positive, so in his case he was definitely positive) until age 11 when I lost him to pancreatic cancer and he was never sick until the last 6 months of his life. He slept, ate, played with, groomed, and on occasion had spats with his 7 house mates, all of whom were vaccinated for FeLV for all of his 11 years and nobody ever got it from him, they are all to this day negative. I lost Bailey in May of 2006.

It is likely the test (elisha) is really negative, it is a sensitive test and false positives happen and since I have no faith in your vet a false positive is not unlikely in my opinion.

There is a group I've been a member of for years because of my little Bailey, they are very knowledgeable on FeLV all members having dealt with or still dealing with it. Some separate their cats some don't. I also have to say some of Cornell's information last time I looked on FeLV was not the most accurate. I disagree with some of their info and my vet is in agreement with me on that so I feel comfortable saying that. I have not been to their website for a while so they may have changed that.

The FeLV Support group I belong to is here:
http://felineleukemia.org/mailman/li...neleukemia.org


there is a link at the bottom to join if you think you may be interested.

PS. When I first found Bailey I took him to 3 different vets who suggested I euthanize him, they all told me he would infect my other cats and die within 3 months, it's a good thing I knew they didn't know what they were talking about!!

An adult, healthy, vaccinated cat has little chance of getting infected from a positive. I even had Joey, Bailey's best buddy PCR (DNA test) tested to make sure he was really negative, he and Bailey were very close and if anyone was going to get it it would have been him, he was and remains negative.

Belinda
happiness is being owned by cats ...
post #16 of 16
Thread Starter 
thanks for the responses everyone!

I live in a small town where there aren't any cat specialists, but my brother in NC takes his cats to one and I will call him to see if maybe he can ask them for me. I will also check out the sites recommended. I would just assume the Elisa test was wrong, except that it came back positive twice...
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