Signs and Symptoms of FIV

Stage 1 FIV Symptoms

After the initial FIV infection, the virus spreads to nearby lymph nodes and eventually to all the lymph nodes. This stage is usually asymptomatic (without symptoms) and lasts days, weeks, or months.

There is a progressive decrease in the number of immune system cells (CD4 or T helper cells). As the CD4 count decreases, the risk of illness increases. Most cats have enough CD4 cells to fight the disease during stage 1.

Some cats may develop fever, neutropenia (abnormal decrease in the number of circulating neutrophils, a type of white blood cell), or anemia (low red blood cell count), but FIV infection usually goes unnoticed during this stage.

Stage 2 FIV Symptoms

Stage 2 is an asymptomatic phase that may last for years.

Stage 3 FIV Symptoms

Stage 3 is sometimes called AIDs-related complex (ARC). The cat's immune system weakens considerably, making it susceptible to disease from bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoans that usually do not affect healthy cats. These are called opportunistic, or secondary, infections. They are chronic, recurrent, and worsen over time.

FIV & Opportunistic Infections

Opportunistic infections are the major cause of death in FIV-positive cats. They usually develop in the skin and the gastrointestinal tract. Some common symptoms are poor coat condition, persistent fever, and loss of appetite. Other symptoms and conditions include the following:

Dermatological Symptoms of FIV

  • Chronic abscesses
  • Chronic gingivitis (infection and inflammation of the gums)
  • Chronic stomatitis (infection and inflammation of the mucous membranes in the mouth)
  • Periodontitis (inflammation of tissues surrounding a tooth)
  • Pustular dermatitis (inflammation and visible collections of pus within the skin)

Gastrointestinal Symptoms of FIV

  • Chronic diarrhea (caused by overgrowth of normal bacteria and fungi, and parasitic infections)
  • Weight loss (slow and progressive)

Immunological Symptoms of FIV

  • Anemia (persistent of recurrent low red blood cell count)
  • Leukopenia (reduction in number of circulating white blood cells)
  • Lymph node hypoplasia (decreased tissue in the lymph nodes, which impairs immune function)
  • Lymph adenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes)
  • Lymphosarcoma (cancer in lymphoid tissue)

Neurological Symptoms of FIV

  • Behavioral changes
  • Dementia (mental deterioration)
  • Facial twitching
  • Peripheral neuropathies
  • Psychomotor abnormalities
  • Seizures

Ocular Symptoms of FIV

  • Cataracts (partial or complete thickening of the lens)
  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of membrane lining the eyelid)
  • Glaucoma (increased pressure within the eye causing visual defects and possible blindness)
  • Keratitis (inflammation of the cornea)

Reproductive Symptoms of FIV

  • Spontaneous abortions and stillbirths

Upper Respiratory Symptom of FIV

  • Chronic rhinitis

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 01 Mar 2001

Last Modified: 16 Dec 2014