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Infected cat, Feline Leukemia
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ashleymarieriley posted:
I have two cats at home- they are perfectly healthy. Recently I have started taking care of this cat outside of my work. He is definitely not feral- he is extremely sweet & affectionate. Needless to say, I fell in love with him. I took him today to get neutered, vaccinated, etc. He tested positive for leukemia. Obviously it is not a good idea to take him home & risk exposing my other cats to the disease. (Even with the vaccinations, this seems like too large of a risk to me.) I'm thinking my only solution is to keep taking care of him at my work environment.

From what I've read, it sounds like the main way it is spread to other cats is through saliva- sharing water bowls, grooming one another, etc.

Is there any way that I could carry the disease home to my cats if I spend time with this infected one? (He often sits on my lap, licks me, etc.) I'm thinking not, but would just like to make sure. Please advise. Thank you!
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srstephanie responded:
Hi Ashley,

The short answer is that there is very little chance that you might bring FeLV home to your cats.

I'm not a vet but my "hobby" is listening to talks given at vet CE conferences by some of the top veterinary experts and researchers. I've been blessed to become friends with Dr Richard Ford (emeritus at NC State) who is one of the top Infectious Disease and vaccinology experts.

Here is one quote from the 2006 AAFP Feline Vaccination Guidelines' section on FeLV about transmission:

"The virus is extremely labile; thus, exposure to virus persisting in the environment, on fomites, or in aerosolized secretions is not an efficient means of viral transmission."

So, it is saying that FeLV is unstable in the environment and transmission on clothing, hands, etc is not common.

More is said in one of the big vet reference works: "Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat" (4th ed just published last Dec, so it is quite current) by Dr Craig Greene, et al. It states that FeLV is very susceptible to disinfectants, soaps, heating and drying and is easily inactivated in the environment within minutes. Therefore even in a household where a cat had or died of FeLV, there is no need for a waiting period to introduce another cat. Even in veterinary hospitals and boarding facilities, all that is needed is to keep cats separated (to avoid direct contact) and to disinfect cages and do routine hand washing between handling cats.

Here are two direct quotes from Dr Greene's book:

"The viral envelope is lipid-soluable and susceptible to disinfectants, soaps, heating, and drying. FeLV is readily inactivated in the environment within minutes. Therefore, close contact among cats is usually required for spread of infection, and indirect transmission (e.g., via feces-contaminated humans) is hardly possible."

"Because of the viral lability, a waiting period is not needed before introducing a new cat into a household after removal of an infected cat. FeLV is not a hazard in a veterinary hospital or boarding kennel as long as cats are housed in separate cages and routine cage disinfection and hand washing are performed between handling cats."

Something else to keep in mind is that KITTENS (particularly those under 4 months of age) are VERY susceptible to FeLV infection (hence the Vaccination Guidelines recommends all kittens be vaccinated for FeLV). However, ADULTS over 8 months of age (i.e. when their immune system has matured) have a natural resistance to FeLV so that it is difficult for an adult cat to become infected ... not impossible, but not easy.

A retroviral researcher at NC State has described it by saying that on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is most susceptible ... kittens are a 10 if exposed to FeLV, while adults are a 1.5. They are not completely immune and can be infected if they have sustained contact, but otherwise healthy adults are very resistant and hard to infect ... even if never vaccinated.

So, if your cats at home are adults over 8 months of age ... there is very little (almost no) risk of your transmitting FeLV to them as long as you wash your hands after playing with the FeLV kitten.

By the way, if you should ever decide to vaccinate your cats for FeLV (which is not needed if they are indoor only cats) be sure to ONLY use the Recombinant FeLV vaccine (Merial Purevax). It is the only FeLV vaccine that is not adjuvanted (adjuvant increases the risk of a vaccine associated sarcoma) AND it gives a very robust "cell mediated immunity" which is beneficial for FeLV which is an intracellular infection.

Hope that helps.

Stephanie in Montreal
 
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AMERICAN VETERINARY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP responded:
Keeping him at work is a great solution! Fortunately, the virus that causes Feline Leukemia (a retrovirus) is very susceptible to drying and only lasts a very short time in the environment. That said, it's always a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly right after you get home, before you pet your other cats.

Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP
The Cat Doctor
Board Certified in Feline Practice
 
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AMERICAN VETERINARY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP responded:
Keeping him at work is a great solution! Fortunately, the virus that causes Feline Leukemia (a retrovirus) is very susceptible to drying and only lasts a very short time in the environment. That said, it's always a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly right after you get home, before you pet your other cats.

Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP
The Cat Doctor
Board Certified in Feline Practice
 
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ashleymarieriley replied to Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP's response:
Thanks for the answers. Good to know I was thinking correctly- just did not want to assume & put my cats at risk.


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