FIV (Feline Aids)

What is it?

Feline immunodeficiency virus causes a potentially fatal viral disease that interferes with the cat's immune system, similar to the HIV virus in humans (note: It does not transmit to humans). The virus resides in the bloodstream of infected cats, and transmission is usually through saliva from a bite wound. Close contact such as grooming or sharing a food bowl does not spread FIV.

FIV causes immunosuppression in most cases observed at our surgery. In addition, it affects the ability of the cat's immune system to fight off other infections. The following are signs of symptoms:

  •  General sickness and fever that can settle but will relapse in a week or two. 

  • They're off their food and just generally lethargic. 

  • Serve gum inflammation/ oral signs such as bad breath and dribbling.

Risk in Rodney

NZ has one of the highest rates of FIV infection in the world due to a nation with a high population of cat ownership in NZ, a high number of feral cats and the outdoor lifestyle NZ cats enjoy.

In a 2010 paper published in NZ, the prevalence of FIV infection ranged from 7% in healthy cats to 27.3% in sick cats. While feral cats across NZ showed, 21.5% were positive.

To assess our local risk, we recently tested 20 "high risk" cats (repeat cat bite recipients) seen at our Warkworth practice and found 3 positives for FIV. Based on the frequency with which we see FIV cases in our area, we believe that the prevalence maintained in the local population of cats (both wild and domestic) is similar to that found in the national study above. Locally, the risks of infection are still significant, especially if your cat is coming into contact and fighting with other cats of unknown health status.



Treatment and Control

There is no effective treatment for FIV, and secondary diseases often become refractory to treatment due to severe immunosuppression.

Unfortunately, due to compromised animal welfare, the severity of the disease and the owner's responsibility to prevent the spread and multiplication of this disease in our local environment, the only option left is humane euthanasia. Reduction in case transmission requires homeowners to provide strict control to cat movements, and medical treatment can treat any suffering caused by secondary diseases. 



Prevention through vaccination

While FIV vaccination is not considered a "core" vaccine, given the severity of the infection, we recommend all cat owners consider this as part of their vaccination protocol. We operate at the pointy end of cat ownership and see the consequences of FIV infection, a drawn-out illness with lots of repeat vet visits and diagnostic tests, which often ends badly. Therefore, we encourage you to consider FIV vaccination.

The vaccination protocol involves 3 vaccinations from 8 weeks of age, 2 – 4 week intervals and an annual booster vaccine. This vaccination can be performed simultaneously as your "cat flu" vaccinations. However, please note the following important points before starting vaccination.

  • Current testing cannot distinguish between an actual FIV-infected cat Vs a cat vaccinated against FIV. For this reason, we strongly advise that you microchip and register with the companion animal register so your cat is permanently traceable and his/her vaccination status can be known.
  • We have a package price for 3 FIV vaccinations, a microchip and CAR registration. For details, please phone our surgery.
  • Adult naive cats starting a vaccination program will require a blood test to confirm they are FIV-free first.

Warkworth Veterinary Services Ltd

We are a seven vet mixed practice, serving the greater Warkworth and Wellsford regions, from Puhoi in the south to Maungaturoto in the north and from east to west coast in between.