Viral diseases

Life Expectancy of a Cat with Leukemia

Mariana Castanheira
By Mariana Castanheira, Licensed vet. January 7, 2018
Life Expectancy of a Cat with Leukemia

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Leukemia in cats is one of the most frequent and severe viral diseases that affects the immune system, mainly in young cats. It is not transmissible to humans, but it is usually easily transmitted among cats living in feline collectives and feral cat colonies.

In order to demystify feline leukemia and know how to prevent it, recognize and proceed with its diagnosis, it is necessary for it to be informed. This time, AnimalWised offers you an article to know a little more about the life expectancy of a cat with leukemia.

  1. What is the life expectancy of a cat with leukemia?
  2. Factors that influence life expectancy in Leukemia in cats
  3. Truths and myths about feline leukemia

What is the life expectancy of a cat with leukemia?

Estimating how long a cat lives with feline leukemia is a complex issue and difficult to pinpoint even for veterinarians who are experts in this pathology. If we want to mention some figures, we can say that about 25% of cats with feline leukemia die within 1 year after being diagnosed. But 75% survive for 1 to 3 years with the virus active in their bodies.

Many owners feel desperate when they think that their cats can carry the Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV or VLFe), but this diagnosis does not always mean a quick death sentence. In fact, about 30% of FeLV infected cats carry the virus latently, and do not even develop feline leukemia.

Factors that influence life expectancy in Leukemia in cats

In general, the life expectancy of a sick cat depends on many aspects inside and outside its body. Below, we summarize the main factors that can influence how the life expectancy of a cat with leukemia.

  • Diagnosis stage: Even though this is not a rule, early diagnosis almost always improves the prognosis of feline leukemia and increases the life expectancy of the sick cat. During the first stages of feline leukemia (mainly between phases I and III), the immune system tries to "stop" the action of the FeLV virus. If we begin to strengthen the cat's immune system already during these stages (which requires an early diagnosis), the result can cause a delay in the severe harmful effects that the virus causes when reaching the bone marrow, which allows a better survival of the animal.
  • Response to treatment: if we succeed in strengthening the immune system of the sick cat and their response to treatment is positive, their life expectancy will be greater. Certain drugs, holistic treatments and vitamins for cats with feline leukemia are often used for this purpose.
  • Health status and preventive medicine: a vaccinated cat with their deworming schedule up to date, which maintains a balanced diet and is physically and mentally stimulated throughout their life, usually has a stronger immune system and respond better to the treatment of feline leukemia.
  • Nutrition: A cat's diet has a direct influence on their quality of life, mood and also on their immune system. Leukemia in cats requires a diet that is reinforced with vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients that can be found in premium range balanced foods.
  • Environment: cats who experience sedentary routines or live in negative, stressful or unstimulating environments can suffer the harmful effects of stress on their immune system, making them more vulnerable to numerous conditions.
  • Owner's Commitment: The health and well-being of our pets always depends on our commitment. And this becomes even more decisive when it comes to a sick animal. Although a cat may have been very independent throughout their life, they will not be able to treat, feed properly, strengthen their immune system or provide a better quality of life on their own. Therefore, the dedication of the owner is essential to improve the life expectancy of a cat with leukemia.
Life Expectancy of a Cat with Leukemia - Factors that influence life expectancy in Leukemia in cats

Truths and myths about feline leukemia

How much do you know about feline leukemia? As it is a complex condition that, for many years, has raised many doubts even among specialist veterinarians, it is understandable that there are many fanciful ideas about leukemia in cats. In order to be better aware of this pathology, we invite you to know some myths and truths.

  • Feline leukemia and blood cancer are synonymous: MYTH!

Feline Leukemia Virus is actually a type of oncological virus (or oncovirus) that can cause tumors, but not all cats diagnosed with leukemia develop blood cancer. It is important to clarify that feline leukemia is also not synonymous of feline AIDS, which is caused by Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).

  • Cats can easily get feline leukemia: TRUTH!

Unfortunately, cats can easily contract the Feline Leukemia Virus through direct contact with the bodily fluids of other infected cats. FeLV is mostly found in the saliva of sick cats, but it can also be deposited in their urine, blood, milk and feces. This is why cats that live in groups are usually more susceptible to this pathology, since they are in permanent contact with possibly sick animals.

  • Humans can get feline leukemia: MYTH!

As we said, feline leukemia is not transmitted to humans, nor to dogs, birds, turtles and other "non feline" pets. It is a typical cat pathology, although it may show similarities in their symptomatology and prognosis with leukemia in dogs.

  • Feline leukemia has no cure: TRUTH!

Unfortunately, a cure for feline leukemia is still not known and there is no cure for feline AIDS either. Therefore, in both cases, prevention is key to preserving animal health and welfare. Currently, we there is a vaccine for feline leukemia, which is around 80% effective, and is an excellent preventive measure for cats that have not been exposed to FeLV. We can also reduce the likelihood of infection by avoiding contact with infected or unknown animals. And if you decide to adopt a new kitten to keep your cat company, it is essential to carry out the necessary clinical studies to diagnose possible pathologies.

  • A cat diagnosed with feline leukemia dies quickly: MYTH!

As we explained, the life expectancy of a sick animal depends on several factors, such as the stage at which the pathology is diagnosed, the animal's response to treatment, etc. So,to know the life expectancy of a cat with leukemia, you should have all the factors mentioned assessed, which is why it does not have to be negative.

Life Expectancy of a Cat with Leukemia - Truths and myths about feline leukemia

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Life Expectancy of a Cat with Leukemia, we recommend you visit our Viral diseases category.

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What did you think of this article?
my cat has fiv can you tell me if he is in pain and suffering
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Barbara,

No, I'm afraid we can't. There are some signs of pain in cats which you can see by referencing the article below, but it is not always easy to tell and it depends on a case-by-case basis:
Alice Rivera
She was 2mo. old When rescued felv+. Died last month was 14 yrs old. They can live a whole life if well taking care. I miss you Tips. 😢
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Life Expectancy of a Cat with Leukemia