Overview of FeLV

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) infection is responsible for more deaths among cats than any other infectious disease. The virus affects domestic cats and occurs in some wild felines as well.

FeLV Types

There are three main types of feline leukemia virus: FeLV-A, FeLV-B, and FeLV-C. FeLV-positive cats can be infected with one, two, or all three types:

  • FeLV-A occurs in all FeLV-infected cats and causes severe immunosuppression (weakened immune system).
  • FeLV-B occurs in about 50 percent of all FeLV-infected cats and causes more neoplastic disease (i.e., tumors and other abnormal tissue growths) than cats infected only with FeLV-A.
  • FeLV-C occurs in about 1 percent of FeLV-infected cats and causes severe anemia.

After the initial infection, the virus replicates in the tonsils and pharyngeal lymph nodes (the pharynx is the muscular tube in the neck). Then it spreads via the bloodstream to other parts of the body, especially the lymph nodes, bone marrow, and intestinal tissue, where it continues to replicate. Viremia, the presence of virus in the blood, usually shows up 2 to 4 weeks after the initial infection.

Incidence of FeLV

FeLV is one of the most devastating feline diseases worldwide. In the United States, FeLV infects about 2 to 3 percent of all cats.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 01 Mar 2001

Last Modified: 16 Dec 2014