Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is one of the most common infectious diseases in cats, affecting between 2 and 3% of all cats in the United States. Infection rates are significantly higher (up to 30%) in cats that are ill or otherwise at high risk (see below). Fortunately, the prevalence of FeLV in cats has decreased significantly in the past 25 years since the development of an effective vaccine and accurate testing procedures.
Cats persistently infected with FeLV serve as sources of infection for other cats. The virus is shed in saliva, nasal secretions, urine, feces, and milk of infected cats. Cat-to-cat transfer of the virus may occur from a bite wound, during mutual grooming, and (rarely) through the shared use of litter boxes and feeding dishes. Transmission can also take place from an infected mother cat to her kittens, either before they are born or while they are nursing. FeLV does not survive long outside a cat’s body – probably less than a few hours under normal household conditions.
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a virus that infects only cats. FeLV depresses the immune system and tends to lead to persistent infection. FeLV is an important cause of anemia in cats and can cause cancers of several types. It is found worldwide and is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids. There is no treatment to eliminate the FeLV virus from the body, and the disease is ultimately fatal. Therefore, preventing infection with FeLV through vaccination is highly recommended. For further details on this important disease, see the handout “Feline Leukemia Virus Disease Complex.
Special blood tests have been developed to detect the presence of the virus in the cat’s blood. In general, these tests are very reliable, although rarely a false positive result occurs. In some situations, it may be necessary to confirm infection with through repeated blood testing at a later date.
Features of Feline Leukemia Vaccine
FeLV vaccines have been available for many years and been continuously improved upon. They are helpful in preventing infection with FeLV and therefore in controlling FeLV-related disease. Unfortunately, no vaccine is 100% protective. When possible, do not allow your cat or kitten to come into close contact with known FeLV-infected cats or cats of unknown vaccination history. Based on recommendations by the American Association of Feline Practitioners, current research and expert opinion recommends FeLV vaccination for all kittens, and then on an as-needed basis for adult cats. Although the FeLV vaccine is not considered a core vaccine in adult indoor cats, it is highly recommended for cats that spend time outdoors. Your veterinarian can discuss the pros and cons of vaccinating your cat against this disease, based on her specific lifestyle and risk of exposure.
Benefits of Feline Leukemia Vaccine
Vaccinating cats against FeLV contributed to the decrease in disease prevalence. Unvaccinated cats with bite wounds are 7.5 times more likely to be infected with FeLV than vaccinated cats with bite wounds, suggesting that FeLV vaccination provides some level of protection.1 It is most likely, based on current studies, that FeLV vaccines prevent antigenemia and progressive infection, although they do not prevent proviral integration. In general, vaccinated cats appear to be protected from FeLV-associated disease and the related shortened lifespan
Dosage and administration
- Subcutaneous or intramuscular injection
- Initial 1 mL dose administered at 9 weeks of age or older
- Second 1 mL dose administered 3 to 4 weeks later
- Contact your veterinarian or manufacturer for more information on revaccination frequency.
- Available in a 25 x 1 mL dose presentation
Shown to be effective for vaccination of healthy cats 9 weeks of age or older against feline leukemia viruses. Duration of immunity is at least 2 years.
Also shown to be effective against persistent viremia in cats exposed to virulent feline leukemia virus.
Prices of Feline Leukemia Vaccine
$35.58 – $76.68