Updated: Oct 22, 2019
Some people believe that testing FeLV/FIV is waste of time
Believe it or not, some people out there advocate to NOT test for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) at all. This reckless notion is based on 5 key arguments that make little or no sense. Promoting the notion that cats should not be tested for these debilitating, contagious and potentially deadly viruses must be shredded to pieces, CatDX.com is here to do just that!
A bit of a background. FeLV and FIV are one of the most common chronic viral infections in feline, including domestic cats. While FeLV leads to blood cancer (Leukemia), FIV is similar to the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, and leads to AIDS in cats. Both viruses live within the cat’s own body and cells, can be transferred by saliva or other bodily fluids, and may lay dormant for years, only causing symptoms later in life. Because FeLV and FIV are transferred from one cat to another by saliva, routine feline activities, such as grooming, licking, or fighting (mainly in males) spread the disease around. Moreover, both viruses can be transferred from mother to kittens while pregnant and through breast milk.
So, what are those “arguments” against testing for FeLV and FIV? Here is list below, with CatDX answer:
Argument Number 1: “The percentage of infected cats with either FeLV or FIV is low. FeLV is detected in less than 5% while FIV is detected in less than 4% of all cats”
CatDX answer: These numbers are skewed and wrong. Large population studies in the US and Europe report FeLV infections as high as 13% in some states/countries, and FIV at around 5%. This means that in some geographical territories, as many as 1 out of 10 cats may have FeLV and 1 out of 20 may have FIV. This argument is also problematic because FeLV and FIV infections have been on the decline thanks to cat owners testing their cats and taking active measures to prevent them from spreading the disease! Such measures include: using separate food/water bowls and litter boxes, spaying and neutering, and separating infected cats from non-infected ones.
Argument Number 2: “Test results can be unreliable with false positives. Cats testing positive should be tested after 30 days or so”
CatDX answer: Testing for FeLV/FIV can be done at your vet’s office, in a specialized lab, or at home using a self-collection kit as offeredby CatDX.com. There are two main ways to test for FeLV/FIV. One uses a detection method, called ELISA, which measures the protein of the viruses, while a second method uses PCR, which measure the viruses DNA. PCR testing has shown to be more accurate than ELISA. The best way to avoid false results it to use BOTH methods. Another way is to use a different body fluid than blood. Saliva testing with PCR is one of the most predictive methods for detecting both FeLV and FIV infection AND disease activity.
Argument Number 3: “Infect cats are asymptomatic and can remain healthy for years or their entire lives”
CatDX answer: FeLV and FIV can remain dormant for years. However, when and how the viruses suddenly flare up and is poorly understood. Knowing that your cat is infected with FeLV or FIV is imperative to monitor your cats health! An infected cat developing a simple symptom, such as vomiting, should immediately visit the vet. Same goes for other symptoms such as unexpected weight loss, lethargy, and more. More importantly, asymptomatic cats with FeLV or FIV CAN STILL BE CONTAGIOUS!
Argument Number 4: “Testing can be very expensive”
CatDX answer: Not necessarily! While it is true that a visit to the vet testing for both FeLV and FIV can cost as much as $150 (if you have 5 cats you’re looking at $750!!!), it doesn't need to be that way. At CatDX.com we offer a self collection kit that uses the highly sensitive PCR method for only $24.99 for BOTH FeLV and FIV. Individual viruses are tested for only $19.99. These prices include all costs including the collection kit, shipping and handling (both ways) and running the test and generating a report. Because we use saliva, you do not need to visit your vet, avoiding both stress to the animal and cost.
Argument Number 5: “FIV tests do not differentiate between FIV infection and vaccination”
CatDX answer: This argument is actually true, but only when the ELISA method is concerned. ELISA test is run by your local vet or some home testing measure the cat’s own response to FIV. That response can be elicited by either getting the virus (infection) or after vaccination (there is a vaccine for FIV but it is no longer offered in the US!). PCR test, offered by CatDX.com does not measure the cat’s own response, but rather measure the virus itself! This means that unless the cat has FIV (not just vaccination) it will not be labelled as positive.
So what’s the conclusion?
Simply put, you MUST test for FeLV and FIV. By testing you will: prevent spreading of the virus and better monitor your cat’s health! Testing does NOT need to be expensive, just visit our product page. You must test for FeLV and FIV...It is the responsible way.
This blog was prepared by CatDX.com LLC. CatDX mission is to develop and provide accurate affordable pet testing. We know that going to your vet can be stressful and expensive so we developed a saliva test for FeLV at a fraction of the cost. Learn more at CatDX.com