If you have a cat, it’s important to learn everything you can about potential health risks for your feline friend. Feline leukemia is, unfortunately, one of the potential health hazards for cats, and it is an often-fatal illness.

In the article below, you’ll find information about the basics of this illness. Read on to learn more. If you still have questions, call Evergreen Veterinary Clinic in San Jose at (408) 238-0690.

feline leukemia in san jose, ca

What is feline leukemia?

Feline leukemia is an illness caused by the feline leukemia virus. It causes the immune system to stop functioning properly, and it can also lead to other health problems such as anemia. Most cats who contract this disease will not live more than a few years following their diagnosis. This is why when you get your new kitten/cat, it is important  to get a leukemia blood test and then potentially start the vaccination series based on your veterinarians recommendations.

Although similar, feline leukemia and the type of leukemia that can affect humans are not the same thing. Cats cannot spread this illness to humans, and humans can’t give it to cats. However, it is highly contagious between cats themselves.

What are the risks of this condition?


Cats who are younger than one year of age may be at a greater risk of contracting this illness because their immune systems haven’t been built up fully yet. Additionally, senior cats may have the same risk because their bodies are no longer able to fight illness the way they once could.


Cats who have underlying health problems or existing medical conditions are at a greater risk of developing feline leukemia. The more strain that is put on the immune system, the more likely it is for cats to become sick with this virus.

Close contact with other cats

Cats who are kept in close contact with each other can easily spread feline leukemia to each other. Even a cat who is asymptomatic can still spread the disease to other cats and potentially make them very sick.

Fighting other cats

Fighting is one of the most common ways cats spread this illness to each other. The virus is spread through saliva most of the time, so cats who bite each other can quickly spread it.

Mother to kitten

If a mother cat has feline leukemia, she will spread it to the kittens she is carrying before they’re born. They will then be born with the condition, and most kittens in this situation will sadly not live very long.

What are the symptoms?

Unexplained weight loss

Cats who have feline leukemia will not feel like eating very much. Because of this, they will quickly start to lose weight without any other known cause.

Lethargy and weakness

Cats will become weak, lethargic, and less able to get up over time with this disease.

Frequent diarrhea

Diarrhea is very common with feline leukemia and can sometimes dehydrate cats dangerously.

Coat condition issues

Many cats with feline leukemia will have poor coat health. This symptom can include dandruff, hair loss, dull coat, or dry and brittle coat. This symptom alone can also be a sign of other problems, however.

Are there any treatment options for feline leukemia?

It’s important to understand that most cats who contract this illness and have symptoms of it will not survive. However, some cats do survive, and it’s important to work closely with your veterinarian in San Jose to help your cat as much as possible with this condition.

There is no cure for feline leukemia, but you can provide your cat with good health care to help reduce the risk of other problems. Make sure to keep your cat indoors as well, so they don’t risk spreading the disease to other cats.

Is there a way to prevent feline leukemia?

Cats who spend all of their time indoors with absolutely no contact with the outdoors may not be at much of a risk of feline leukemia at all. It is extremely rare for a fully indoor cat to contract this disease, unless they pick it up at a boarding facility, kennel, or shelter.

Cats who go outside or who spend a lot of time around other cats in kennels should receive a feline leukemia vaccination. This vaccination can prevent most cats from contracting the virus, although there is always a slight chance that they still could in certain circumstances. The chance is minimal, however, so the vaccination for this disease is strongly recommended.

Now that you’ve had a chance to brush up on the information you need to know about feline leukemia, you can better understand just how critical it is to protect your cat from this disease. The best way to help your cat reduce or prevent the risk of feline leukemia is to talk to your vet about vaccinations.

Although some cats may not be good candidates for the feline leukemia vaccination, most are, and your vet will be able to tell you if there’s any reason not to have your pet vaccinated as well. Be sure to ask your vet for more information about this and other prevention measures. Call us today at (408) 238-0690.