Feline Leukemia (FeLV)

What is feline leukemia?
Feline leukemia is a cancerous disease caused by feline leukemia virus (FeLV). FeLV causes diseases other than leukemia including immunodeficiency and additional cancers. Cats may not start to show signs of disease for months or years after being infected with FeLV. Infection with FeLV is a major cause of illness and death in domestic cats.

FeLV causes very similar symptoms as FIV. So personally, I’m always a bit confused by the two.

Rheilly and Kheilly are both FeLV positive, so we’re watching them carefully… in addition to vaccinating the other slackers against it

I like how this bestfriends.org‘s FeLV pdf explains it.

This is a good reading resource on Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) – An Overview of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) in Dogs and Cats by Veterinary Clinical Pathology Clerkship Program. Here’s:


Leukemias are malignant neoplasms of hematopoietic stem cells arising in the bone marrow.1 Acute lymphocytic leukemia (also known as ALL, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or acute lymphoid leukemia) is a proliferation of undifferentiated lymphocytes and is the most common cancer in children. The disease affects 25-30% of all pediatric oncology patients. Even though the specific etiology is largely unknown, ALL is considered to be one of the most curable cancers in children.2 Although there are many similarities between the human and animal forms of the disease, the clinical course and outcome are very different. The prognosis with chemotherapy treatment is poor in canine and feline patients, and the average survival time is only a few months. Untreated, the estimated survival time from diagnosis is less than two weeks.1 ALL is more common in cats than in dogs, however neither is very common compared to lymphoma. ALL can occur at any age in animals, although it is more prevalent in young and middle-age populations.4


Clinical Signs

Most of the clinical signs associated with ALL are non-specific. Lethargy, anorexia, cachexia, vomiting, diarrhea, and persistent fever have all been commonly reported with the disease. On physical exam, splenomegaly, hepatomegaly, mild lymphadenopathy, pallor of the mucous membranes, and petechiae may be evident. Shifting leg lameness, epistaxis, dyspnea, tachycardia and recurrent infections have also been associated with ALL. Neurologic signs are less commonly reported, however they can be seen in ALL patients with meningeal metastasis of the lymphoblasts.5

Many clinical signs observed in ALL are the result of myelophthisis and the resulting cytopenias. Anemia leads to lethargy and pallor, thrombocytopenia leads to petechiae and epistaxis, and granulocytopenia leads to fever and infections. Other clinical signs are the result of tissue infiltration by leukemic cells and subsequent organ dysfunction.

More readings on FeLV: articles on about cats.

(Created: 24 May 06. Updated: 20 Jan 07)


One response to “Feline Leukemia (FeLV)

  1. Is there is any holistic protocols that could be undertaken to reduce a cat’s risk of developing such a terrible health malady? It seems like the vet bill would be huge to treat this condition. If you check out I wonder how efficacious human arthritis treatments are on cats; certainly a question for a vet. Paula Robb may be able to help as well; however, you’d have to contact her to know for sure.

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