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FIV/ FeLV

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
The good news is that I don't have a positive test result to talk about. The bad news is that, in the course of a rescue of a hoarding situation (main thread in SOS, including pictures!), while a vet has agreed to provide an enormous amount of at-cost care, she reasonably does not want any cats who test positive for FIV or FeLV to stay on the property. We're going to fix all of the animals and have supervision, so, hopefully, no new cats will enter the situation, but to expect the hoarder to keep infected animals isolated, inside and well cared for is simply unrealistic, no matter the amount of supervision. Therefore, unless we can find homes ahead of time, any cats who test positive for either disease will be euthanized.

Neither my spouse nor I know much about these diseases: so far I've found good information pages on the for basic conventional veterinary wisdom written in a readable manner by the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine with good descriptions of those diseases: FIV and FeLV.

What we want to know is the general long-term prognosis for cats with either of these diseases, and what type of shelter, fostering, and adoption possibilities they have. My spouse will be on the property for maybe two more weeks, so we've got a time crunch situation, but he's both willing to drive very long distances and we could try to get things like the animal rescue transport network involved, so we're willing to look very far and wide for places to put these cat. Charles is willing to drive cats to anywhere in the US Southeast (esp. Georgia, where he is, Florida, Alabama, and North and South Carolina), and, if we can get other transport arranged, we're willing to send the cats anywhere in the US (I'm guessing crossing country boarders with cats infected with communicable diseases is a No-No).

Also, it looks like the in-vet office FeLV ELISA test has a serious possibility for false positives; anyone know any sources for what the rate of false positives is? I certainly wouldn't want to euthanize a healthy cat because of a false positive test!

Anyone know what the in-vet office FIV test is? What kind of false positive rate does it give? I've read that an FIV vaccine will give a false positive on this test: is there an FIV test that will not return a false positive for vaccinated cats? Some of these cats have been to another vet, and I will have my spouse check the records very carefully (and call the vet besides) to make sure that they weren't vaccinated for FIV before we test them.

The kittens are going in to the vet on Monday, so swift answers would be greatly appreciated.
post #2 of 27
Katiemae1277 has a houseful of FeLV positive cats. I'll ping her to respond here.

I can talk about the tests though. The Elisa test can test for both FIV and FeLV (it's called a combo test). If a cat was ever vaccinated for FIV, they will show a positive result on that test. So if you don't know the origin of a cat, you can never be certain that they have FIV if tested positive.

The FeLV side of the Elisa test looks for antibodies against FeLV, not the actual virus itself. So if a cat was exposed to FeLV and their body is trying to fight it off, they can have a positive result. Thus the term false positive. Roughly 25%-33% of unvaccinated exposed cats will go to full blown FeLV and the rest can fight it off. If vaccinated, it drops to about 10% (the vaccine is not 100% effective).

The general procedure that is recommended (you probably read about this on the Cornell site) is that you test a cat for FeLV and if it is positive, to repeat the test in 30-60 days. That is the length of time that an exposed cat takes to fight it off. If they are positive again after 60 days, you still aren't entirely sure (might have been re-exposed in your case), and a final test to determine if it turned into FeLV is the IFA test. This is a full blood draw and the results sent to a lab. If they find it with IFA, then the cat definitely has it.

If there are kittens involved, typically you have the mother tested and if proven positive (thru IFA), then all of her kittens will be exposed. Roughly 95% of kittens will contract full blown FeLV when exposed in the womb, and most will die before they are 2 years old. (I have a feral cat whose entire family tested positive and he was the lucky 5% that fought it off)

The IFA test is somewhat expensive (cost me $40 per cat and that was a discount price). When I found FeLV in my feral colony, I had to use a lot of discretion on who I tested with the simple Elisa test and those that I tested with IFA. For cats from the same mom, I used the IFA on one of them, and then tested the rest with Elisa. They were 6 months old so I knew that if they came out clean, that they had fought it off. You also have to look at the general health of the cat (although in your case that might be difficult because of the general health issues related to hoarding).

Did this help?
post #3 of 27
Thread Starter 
Very, very helpful on FeLV tests, which I had less information on, and which fewer people seem to be willing to foster or adopt than FIV (for apparently good reason). Thanks so much!
post #4 of 27
There are theories that until someone found a test for FIV, there were many households that had FIV positive cats for years (with other cats), with absolutely no problems. The FIV test was a death sentence for a lot of cats since it came out. FIV is far less scary than FeLV because frankly I don't think it is as bad a disease. FeLV is actually a lot like AIDS in humans. You can be HIV positive without full blown AIDS. You can be (Elisa) FeLV positive without full blown FeLV. Both are auto-immune diseases.
post #5 of 27
Hi Enuja! I've been following your story and have to give great big kudos to your husband for tackling this problem

The main difference between FIV and FeLV is that FeLV can be spread thru casual contact, such a grooming, sharing food and water bowls or litterboxes, while FIV is spread thru mating or bite wounds. IMO, any cat that tests positive for FIV should be allowed to return to the property as the likelihood of transmitting the disease is practically nil when all cats are altered. Many TNR groups now release FIV cats back into their feral pops.

Another difference between FeLV and FIV is that a cat's expected lifespan when FeLV positive is pretty short. I've been taking in FeLV cats for almost 9 years now and I very rarely have had one live longer than 3 years, and this is with them being 100% indoors and having vet care, quality diet, etc. FIV cats can be expected to live, while not a "normal" lifespan, into their early teens, but again, these are indoor cats. In reality, most FIV outdoor cats will probably die from something else before their FIV ever kicks in.

There are not a lot of places for FeLV cats since they have to kept separated from negative cats and most rescues simply do not have the space, most barely have space for the healthy cats they have, so finding a place to take them is going to be very very difficult. There are some folks like me spread far and wide who take in positives exclusively, but, also like me, they do not advertise and have limited resources. I have 13 right now and I am way over my limit.

As far as false positives, I am torn on these. I personally believe false negatives are far more common, it is thought that FeLV can "hide" in the bone marrow and give negative results. False positives are, in essence, a positive before the cat is able to fight the initial infection off, and during this phase they are able to pass it along. Coming from someone who cares for these cats and thinks they are the best cats in the world you may think this odd, but I do support the euthanasia of a positive cat if there is no where for them to go that will eliminate the possibility of passing this horrible disease along. My wish is for this disease to be irradicated and the sooner the better if euthanizing positive cats helps this along than so be it. It sounds like in this situation there is no where to really seclude these cats for 30-60 days to re-test them or keep them for their lifespan, euthanasia is the best route I would see if the IFA (blood test) can be done as opposed to the Elisa just to make sure the cats are positive if that is financially feasible.

many many vibes that none are positive though

any other questions please feel free to PM me!
post #6 of 27
Thread Starter 
That's really, really useful advice and information, Katiemae. Thank you so much! It's pretty powerful advice coming from a person with a well-loved FeLV household to euthanize any animals who test positive for the disease if we can't find any good long-term space for them. Unfortunately, you are correct, we won't be able to isolate animals for 30-60 days for a re-rest, much less on a life-long basis.

Do you know of anything written by a vet about releasing ferals with FIV? This is extremely relevant, because from what I'm reading elsewhere, and what you're saying I think it makes sense to return any otherwise healthy FIV+ cats to the property, be they feral or friendly.

I'm going to download and read the "2008 American Association of Feline Practitioners' feline retrovirus management guidelines" published in the "Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery" last July just as soon as the online database stops giving me a "currently unavailable due to maintenance of our system" error message.
post #7 of 27
you're very welcome! It pains me greatly to have the view I do, but in the case of FeLV the health of the whole trumps the life of one for me.

I will look for something about releasing FIV cats, but you seem to have found the resources that I usually direct people too, Cornell and the journal entry all of my links are saved on my work computer so I can't access them until Monday morning, but I will also look this weekend
post #8 of 27
If you decide to release any FIV cat back into the colony, then you might as well not bother to test them for it, as it won't change your course of action on them. It will save you money that you could put toward the IFA test. Of course if you are trying to adopt them out, that is another issue.
post #9 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Momofmany View Post
If you decide to release any FIV cat back into the colony, then you might as well not bother to test them for it.
Isn't the usual test a FeLV/FIV combo? I agree; if the FIV test is separate or costs more, don't even bother to test for it, unless the cat is obviously ill.
post #10 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Momofmany View Post
If you decide to release any FIV cat back into the colony, then you might as well not bother to test them for it, as it won't change your course of action on them. It will save you money that you could put toward the IFA test. Of course if you are trying to adopt them out, that is another issue.
excellent point!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willowy View Post
Isn't the usual test a FeLV/FIV combo? I agree; if the FIV test is separate or costs more, don't even bother to test for it, unless the cat is obviously ill.
I think the IFA tests for both as well? but it might be separate
post #11 of 27
IFA I believe tests for both, ELISA will cost more to test for FIV & FeLV.
post #12 of 27
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much: you guys have given me a lot to think about and look up. I found a freely available link to the AAFP's 2008 Retrovirus Guidelines (pdf).

Below is what we've come up with and plan to give to the vet on Monday (tomorrow) when my spouse brings the kittens in. Any suggested improvements would be greatly appreciated, and I'll tell you how the vet reacted. (If the vet reacts positively, this might be a useful resource for anyone else who ends up in the same situation.)



Proposed Testing Policy

Overall Rationale: FIV and FeLV status needs to be known before the cats are adopted out, so that we do not spread either of these diseases. However, as the 2008 AAFP guidelines state, feral cats aren't generally a serious disease reservoir and shouldn't necessarily be routinely tested.

From the guidelines: “A decision for euthanasia should never be based solely on whether or not the cat is infected.†However, the guidelines also strongly recommend isolating cats infected with both of these diseases, and we are simply incapable of doing so. FeLV is a more infectious virus than FIV, and also has a worse prognosis, assuming the cat advances to a progressive infection. It is unrealistic to expect many adult cats to be adopted off of this property, and they'd need to be re-tested at that time anyway, because of the risk of exposure to possible unknown reservoirs of both diseases.

FeLV Action Plan: Test all animals for FeLV with in-office plasma, serum, or whole blood test for FeLV p27 anitgen. Euthanize any suffering or seriously ill cats who test positive for FeLV. If there are a large number of positive test results (>5), euthanize cats for a single positive test. If there are a low (5 or fewer) number of positive tests, return to property, isolate, send blood to a laboratory for IFA test (we pay full price). For cats positive on the in-office FeLV test: if they test positive on the IFA test, they will be placed in a FeLV+ shelter or euthanized and if they test negative on IFA test they'll stay on the property, in the mixed population. For the 8-10 kittens on Monday: if more than one kitten tests positive on the in-office FeLV test, euthanize positive cats. If only one kitten tests positive, bring the kitten back to the property for isolation while the IFA test processes. Do the same for all subsamples (groups of 6-8 cats brought in in one day), unless number of FeLV positive cats adds up.

Rationale for FeLV Action Plan: The chance of false positive is greater with lower incidence of disease. From the 2008 AAFP Retrovirus Guidelines:
Because the consequences of a positive screening test are significant, confirmatory testing is recommended, especially in low-risk and asymptomatic patients in which the possibility of a false-positive result is higher (lower positive predictive value) (Jacobson 1991). Negative screening test results are highly reliable due to the high sensitivity of the tests and low prevalence of infection (high negative predictive value). Also, IFA tests are less likely to test positive during acute infection phase of cats that will become regressively infected. From the 2008 AAFP Retrovirus Guidelines:
Some cats may be only transiently antigenemic and may revert to negative status on soluble antigen tests (regressive infection) (Barr 1996). A positive IFA test on blood or bone marrow indicates a cat is likely to remain persistently antigenemic. Additionally, while we can afford IFA tests of a few cats, we can't afford to do so if a large number of cats test positive for FeLV.

FIV Action Plan: Test kittens, bring back to the property if they test positive. Don't test anybody else.

Rationale for FeLV Action Plan: FIV is transmitted primarily by fighting, all cats will be neutered and so unlikely to fight, and the current feeding situation also minimizes fighting. From the 2008 AAFP Retrovirus Guidelines:
Generally, cats in households with stable social structures where housemates do not fight are at a low-risk for acquiring FIV infection, but a high rate of transmission within a household without observed fighting has been reported (Addie et al 2000). Kittens should not be euthanized because of a positive FIV test. From the 2008 AAFP Retrovirus Guidelines:
Positive FIV antibody tests in kittens under 6 months of age must be carefully interpreted. Antibodies from FIV-vaccinated queens are passed to kittens that nurse on vaccinated queens (MacDonald et al 2004). ... Kittens born to infected queens or FIV-vaccinated queens also acquire FIV antibodies in colostrum. Because kittens do not commonly become infected with FIV, most kittens that test positive for FIV antibodies are not truly infected and will test negative when re-evaluated several months later. Also, because these are outdoor cats in dense colony, cats positive for FIV are not likely to suffer more or die much earlier than cats negative for FIV.

What Ifs: If the combo test is as cheap or cheaper than the FeLV test, we can simply use the combo test and record, but not act on, the FIV results. If and when opportunities to adopt out cats come up, we will test them for FeLV and FIV.

Sources:
Levy J, Crawford C, Hartmann K, Hofmann-Lehmann R, Little S, Sundahl E , Thayer V. 2008. 2008 American Association of Feline Practitioners' feline retrovirus management guidelines. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. 10 (3): 300-316

Interview with Dr. Julie Levy at the end of the Alley Cat Allies Information Sheet about (not) testing for FIV and FeLV while doing TNR for feral colonies.
post #13 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Enuja View Post
What Ifs: If the combo test is as cheap or cheaper than the FeLV test, we can simply use the combo test and record, but not act on, the FIV results. If and when opportunities to adopt out cats come up, we will test them for FeLV and FIV.
In my experience, the combo test is cheaper than the IFA test, but the Elisa FeLV only test is cheaper than the Elisa combo test. Ask the vet what they would charge for these.

You have obviously done a lot of research and your plan sounds very well reasoned out.

Sending major, major, major that neither disease is found in the colony.
post #14 of 27
Thread Starter 
My spouse didn't understand my previous version of the plan for testing (which makes sense, since he told me to write something to convince the vet, not him), so I edited it for his understanding. Depending on how the vet takes my reasoning, this might be useful for other people here, too. It's got a lot of the same words as the previous version, but it's shorter, doesn't have any quotes from the 2008 AAFP Retrovirus Guidelines, and includes a few more short explanations.

Overall Rationale: FeLV is both more transmissible and worse than FIV. Need to remove FeLV from property, but not FIV. FIV testing needed only for adoption out.

FeLV Action Plan: Test all animals for FeLV with in-office test for antigen (part of the virus). Euthanize any suffering or seriously ill cats who test positive for FeLV. If there are a large number of positive test results (>5), euthanize cats for a single positive test. If there are a low (5 or fewer) number of positive tests, return to property, isolate, send blood to a laboratory for a different test (IFA test). If clean on IFA test, cat stays on property. If positive on IFA test, cats will be placed in a FeLV+ shelter or euthanized. Because we won't be testing all of the animals at once, we'll euthanize all positive kittens if more than one tests positive for FeLV. We'll do the same for all groups of 6-8 cats brought in on one day unless the number of FeLV positive cats adds up.

Rationale for FeLV Action Plan: The chance of false positive is greater with lower risk for disease, and the fewer cats test positive, the lower the risk that individual cats actually have it. Also, IFA tests are less likely to test positive in cats that have been exposed but who will end up not sick and not infectious. Additionally, while we can afford a few IFA tests, we can't afford a large number of them.

FIV Action Plan: Test kittens, with in-office test for antibodies (tests for immune response to virus); bring back to the property if they test positive. Don't test anybody else.

Rationale for FIV Action Plan:
FIV is transmitted primarily by fighting, all cats will be neutered and so unlikey to fight, and the current feeding situation also minimizes fighting. Kittens should not be euthanized because of a positive FIV test because they can get the antibodies from their mothers. Also, because these are outdoor cats in a dense colony, cats positive for FIV are not likely to suffer more or die much earlier than cats negative for FIV.

What Ifs: If the combo test is as cheap or cheaper than the FeLV test, we can simply use the combo test and record, but not act on, the FIV results. When opportunities to adopt out cats come up, we will test them for FeLV and FIV.

Sources:
Levy J, Crawford C, Hartmann K, Hofmann-Lehmann R, Little S, Sundahl E , Thayer V. 2008. 2008 American Association of Feline Practitioners' feline retrovirus management guidelines. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. 10 (3): 300-316

Interview with Dr. Julie Levy at the end of the Alley Cat Allies Information Sheet about (not) testing for FIV and FeLV while doing TNR for feral colonies.
post #15 of 27
I think your plan sounds very well reasoned and thought out

Just remember, even if your vet does not agree with your FIV plan, they cannot force you to euthanize them, you have researched this thoroughly and are entitled to make your own decision on the matter.

I wish you the best of luck with this and many vibes that no one tests positive for FeLV at least
post #16 of 27
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much for the information, advice, and well wishes.

Great news: 14 cats (8 kittens, 5 adult cats recently spayed, and 1 adult cat recently neutered) have tested negative on the in-office FeLV/FIV combo test!

This includes an adult female with a URI and adult male that looks thin and with questionable health, so it's wonderful, wonderful news, and makes me hopeful for the rest of the cats.
post #17 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Enuja View Post
Great news: 14 cats (8 kittens, 5 adult cats recently spayed, and 1 adult cat recently neutered) have tested negative on the in-office FeLV/FIV combo test!
post #18 of 27
That is AWESOME news!!
post #19 of 27
Thread Starter 
Very bad news - a cat tested positive for both FeLV/FIV. Male, neutered, extremely friendly, black and white tuxedo cat who is currently very healthy. S took him to the vet, and he'd already been fixed. Apparently he was a dropoff. Anybody know of a home for a single double positive cat?

He can't stay on the property because C isn't capable of keeping cats safe and isolated inside, but S's ex-wife has agreed to take him! Yeah! She doesn't have a cat, and she wants an indoor only cat. Only downside (and it's a big one): she wants him to be front declawed. S is willing to have it done, because he thinks that removing digits is better than euthanizing the animal, and since S is leaving the property on Sunday morning, and tomorrow is the vet's last day before she takes a one week holiday if we couldn't find another foster in the next 24 hours, we'd have to euthanize him.

He's still available for a forever home, if anyone wants him! S lost his flash drive, and so can't get any pictures off of the property until he buys another one.

(I also posted this in my SOS thread)
post #20 of 27
Huh, you'd think that an outdoor cat who had been vetted at one point would have been vaccinated.

That's sad to think that one irresponsible pet owner could undo all ya'll have done there, I hope you are able to get him a home. Then again, I suppose that were it not for irresponsible pet owners letting un altered animals run loose you would have had a reasonable number of cats to deal with.
post #21 of 27
Thread Starter 
The FIV vaccine isn't recommended as a core vaccine, because it makes cats test positive on the only tests for FIV currently available. This is because FIV circulates at low levels in the blood, so the tests that have been developed test for the antibody (immune response to the virus, and what vaccines are supposed to create).

The FeLV vaccine isn't recommended as a core vaccine for adult cats, but it is recommended for kittens. I'm reading the reasoning in the 2008 AAFP Retrovirus guidelines, and it's less clear and convincing than the argument against routine vaccination for FIV. One of the reasons seems to be that some of the vaccines, at least, don't necessarily work all that well, especially on a longer time span (although this cat is probably only about 2 years old).

Another thing that could happen is that people just take the cat to a vet who does the legally necessary vaccines (in Georgia, I think rabies alone) and fix, and don't do anything else. If the cat was a drop-off, I'd really expect just-sufficient vet care, not vet care calibrated for the cat's expected life style.
post #22 of 27
An FIV/FeLV positive cat will probably not survive having his claws cut out. His immune system won't be strong enough to survive any surgery, especially an elective one involving bone removal. I would have no respect for a vet that would even consider doing such a surgery.
post #23 of 27
Thread Starter 
Excellent news! They re-did just the ELISA combo in-office test, and the first one was apparently a dud of a test (or they make a mistake when they used it or something): the second one was negative. Yeah!

That was an emotional, must-find-foster-now roller coaster, but it's all good now.

Willowy, since the 2008 AAFP guidelines recommend neutering and spaying for any intact cats who are diagnosed with either disease, I suspect that some vets would de-claw positive cats. However, I did bring up the same reasoning (surgery on an immuno-compromised cat is even worse than surgery on healthy cat) and told him to ask the vet. Thankfully, it's now moot.
post #24 of 27
I thought that it wasn't considered safe to declaw an adult cat? That it is too rough on them recovering due to their weight? Would she consider soft paws or learning to clip the tips of his claws? True, declaw is better than death, but if he's used to being outdoors he's likely to sneak out a few times before he adjusts and outdoors is a bad place for a declawed kitty.
post #25 of 27
Thread Starter 
I surely don't know. I know that adult de-claw is more traumatic than a kitten de-claw, but in Georgia, I thought that both were pretty routine. It's a moot point now.

Well, it looks like the foster got used to the idea of taking this cat (S apparently did a very good personality sales job), and wants him after all. He's socially a bit of an outcast on the property, as apparently many of the drop-offs are, and clearly would prefer to be an owned cat. As I told S, and S agrees, that means no declaw, because the cat can stay on the property if necessary.
post #26 of 27
Thank goodness you did a re-test! That's great that he may have a home, fingers crossed that she will still take him clawed

Along the lines of what Willow said, and I know it's moot now, but I would also think that an adult declaw on a FeLV, let alone a double-positive, would be extremely traumatic There was a time when altering these immuno-compromised cats was discouraged, not that long ago actually, my very first FeLV cat 9 years ago was not altered because the vet didn't think he would make it thru the surgery and when I got another kitty neutered about 6 years ago the vet used a lower dose of anesthesia and I then also lost another kitten in a neuter surgery which may or may not have been related to his FeLV status. I've also had many others come to me already fixed that made it thru the surgery fine.

Anyhoo I'm so glad he's negative!
post #27 of 27
Glad to hear it! I kind of thought it might be a false positive....when it comes back double positive on a healthy cat like that a dud is always to be suspected.

De-claws are NEVER routine. Some vets may do them routinely, but that doesn't make them any safer or more humane.

The main reason a spay/neuter is safer than a de-claw, even for FeLV-positive cats, is because altering does not involve the feet, or the removal of bone. Ask any (human) doctor----surgery on the feet is always more risky (post-op infection wise) than abdominal surgery.
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