Feline Leukemia Virus In Ragdoll Cats: What You Need To Know

Feline Leukemia Virus in ragdoll cats

By Jennie @ Ragdoll Cats World

April 8, 2022

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Feline leukemia virus is a disease that can affect cats, including Ragdoll Cats. It is a cancer-like illness that affects the blood cells. There is no cure for feline leukemia virus, but there are treatments available to help relieve the symptoms. Most Ragdoll cat breeders will test their mating cats for FeLV to ensure that they, and their kittens, are free from the virus.

What is Feline Leukemia Virus?

Feline leukemia virus (FLV) is a virus that can cause leukemia in cats. It is a member of the family of viruses that includes the common cold and the flu. FLV is spread through contact with saliva, mucus, blood, or other body fluids from an infected cat. It can also be spread through contact with objects or surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. FeLV cannot be spread through contact with people. Symptoms of FLV infection in cats include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. Diagnosis of FLV infection is made by testing blood samples for signs of leukemia. Treatment for FLV infection includes antibiotics and supportive care. There is no cure for FLV-related leukemia, but treatment may help reduce the symptoms of the disease and prolong the life of a cat affected by it.


How Does it Affect Cats?

Ragdoll cats are the most commonly affected by leukemia, according to the ASPCA. The leukemia virus affects cats in a variety of ways, but most commonly it causes anemia and lymphoma. Around 30 percent of infected cats will develop tumors. Affected cats usually have a decreased appetite, weight loss, and difficulty breathing. If left untreated, leukemia can lead to death.


Feline Leukemia Virus in ragdoll cats

What Are the Symptoms of Feline Leukemia Virus?

The symptoms of leukemia vary depending on the type of leukemia, but generally they will include changes in appetite, weight, energy levels, and appearance. In some cases there may also be signs of infection such as fever or discharge from the nose or mouth.  It’s possible for some cats, however, to experience no symptoms at the early stage.

Additional symptoms of feline leukemia may include depression, weight loss to the point of emaciation, and diarrhea. Cats may also experience blood in the stool, jaundice, constipation, and chronic recurring infections.

There are two stages to this illness. Some cats will fight off the infection and it will not progress to the second stage. Other cats will not be so fortunate and the disease will progress.

If your cat has FeLV that has reached the second stage, there is little you can do to help them. The only thing you can do is to treat the secondary diseases and infections, and attempt to strengthen their immune system. Unfortunately, most cats with this advanced form of the virus die from it.

If you think your cat may have leukemia, it is important to see a veterinarian as soon as possible for a diagnosis and treatment plan.


How Is Feline Leukemia Virus Diagnosed?

There is no specific test to diagnose leukemia in cats, but a veterinarian will typically perform a blood workup to rule out other causes of the cat’s illness, such as an infection. If the veterinarian detects leukemia, he or she will likely prescribe chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to treat the condition.

How Is Feline Leukemia Virus Treated?

There is currently no cure for feline leukemia virus (FeLV), but there are treatments available that can help manage the disease. Treatment options may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or surgery. Some cats will require multiple treatments over a period of several months or even years to achieve a successful outcome. Cats with FeLV should always be monitored by their veterinarian throughout treatment to make sure they are doing well and that the treatment is working.


How Can I Protect My Cat From Feline Leukemia Virus?

According to professional sources, approximately 2-3% of cats will contract feline leukemia virus (FeLV) at some point in their lives. Rates are higher in high-risk groups, so if your cat is not considered to be a high risk group, its chances of contracting the disease are generally limited. Since FeLV is transmitted through contact with infected cats, keeping your cat indoors and away from these animals is one way to help reduce the chances of contracting the virus.

There is a vaccine available which is usually given twice, at one-month intervals at three to five months of age, with a booster annually. However, some people are concerned about the safety of the FeLV vaccine for cats. There have been reports of adverse reactions in some Ragdoll cats after getting the vaccine.

Some cat breeders believe that since Ragdolls are strictly indoor cats and that the feline leukemia virus is caught from contact with other cats, they don’t need to risk getting this vaccine. Other cat breeders believe otherwise, and if you plan to show your Ragdoll cat, you will want to consider getting the vaccination. Speak to your veterinarian for more up-to-date advice on whether or not this vaccine is necessary for your pet.


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Written by Jennie @ Ragdoll Cats World

I'm Jennie, the creator of Ragdoll Cats World. I have been owned and loved by Ragdoll Cats for almost twenty years after getting my first Ragdoll kittens, Huey and Choo-Choo back in 2003. They lived to the grand old age of 18 and 17 and they even made the move from London to Australia with me! We now have two Ragdoll cats, Violet and Ocean, and a Maine Coon cat named Eddie, and we love sharing our knowledge of all things related to Ragdoll Cats with you at Ragdoll Cats World!

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