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knitfroggy's avatar

My 18 month old cat was diagnosed with leukemia today. Anyone have experience with this?

Asked by knitfroggy (8962points) July 5th, 2010

Timmy, my beautiful, gray tabby that I just adore was diagnosed with feline leukemia today. He has been sick since about Friday, but we didn’t realize how sick until last evening. We took him to the vet on an emergency appointment the vet was closed, he came in to see Timmy. He is lethargic, has lost a lot of weight, is running a fever and generally just not himself. They didn’t do blood work on Timmy, but my friend had adopted Timmy’s sister and she had to be put to sleep due to leukemia. The vet said more than likely, by the looks of him and his symptoms and fever that he has leukemia also.

The vet put Timmy on some antibiotics and told us we needed to change his food. I was really upset and kind of shocked, because I thought he would have to be put to sleep if he had leukemia. I didn’t ask a lot of questions. The vet said that Timmy would just live with the leukemia. I have two other house cats. I’m frightened they are going to get leukemia also. They were vaccinated when they were kittens, and my husband says they are fine and won’t catch the leukemia. I’m not entirely sure he is correct

Have you had any experience with this kind of situation? What should I do for my other cats? I will call the vet tomorrow when he is actually open and I’m not as upset, but I wanted to ask the jellies their thoughts and opinions.

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18 Answers

MissA's avatar

It is my understanding that your vaccinated cats will not contract the disease. But, I’d be sure they don’t feed out of the same bowls, as an extra precaution. I’m so sorry to hear about this…but, he may live longer than you expect. Just love him bunches and talk with him. He’ll appreciate that more than anything.

knitfroggy's avatar

@MissA Thank you. I just opened him some tuna, which I’m gonna guess probably wasn’t the best thing I could do, but he hasn’t eaten a lot lately and it made me feel better to see him eat a few bites. After we gave him his antibiotics we put about 2 cc’s of water in his syringe and shot that down his throat too. I don’t think he is hurting or in pain, I think he’s just sick and it breaks my heart.

MissA's avatar

@knitfroggy , I sure understand. If your kitty has not had blood work, he may have similar symptoms…but, not the actual disease. You might want to have that done. Again, I understand and my best to you.

knitfroggy's avatar

@MissA We might go ahead and have the blood work done. I trust my vets opinion. He has been in practice a long time, and I trust what he says. But, since I have my other two boys to worry about, it probably would be best to have him tested, just to be 100% sure. Tabby will be 9 in August and Tony just turned 4 in the spring. I take my cats very seriously. They are practically like other children to me. I say that fully realizing they aren’t as important as my “human children” but, damn, I love my cats.

MissA's avatar

@knitfroggy When I say, “I understand” Rudy is about twenty years old. He’s a wise, well-mannered, considerate member of the family. I can’t imagine life without him.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Awww, first of all, big hugs for you.
There is a good possibility that Timmy has had leukemia for much longer than you realize. FeLV positive cats can live long, full, healthy lives if well cared for. 18 is a pretty substantial age for a cat, so it really could be a number of things that are causing his symptoms. I would definitely have the blood work done. It’s a quick and simple test, you should have results pretty much immediately. Unfortunately it does hurt a bit, but it could be good to know for certain that Timmy is in fact FeLV+. It would also be helpful to have your other cats tested, just for safe measure. Often FeLV can have no symptoms at all.
Something that I have found that can be helpful for cats/kittens with FeLV is something called Willard Water. I know that it made a HUGE difference in a litter of FeLV+ kittens that I rescued one summer. They were completely feral and in terrible shape health wise – diarrhea was the biggest issue. Adding the WW to their regular water made a MASSIVE difference. They began to put on weight, their diarrhea subsided, and they all became more playful and just visibly healthier.
Vets used to be a bit less “tolerant” of FeLV cats – suggesting that they be put down immediately. Fortunately that seems to have changed in recent years. There is also a bit of a debate about how easily transmitted it really is. It’s been said that it can be passed to other cats simply by them touching noses, but now more evidence is pointing to it being most often transmitted by mating (or passing from FeLV+ queen to her kittens.) If your other cats are vaccinated they really should be fine. Kittens and senior cats are most at risk for contracting FeLV… but a simple blood test should put your mind at ease.

Just remember that FeLV is not necessarily a death sentence. You may have to take extra precautions to keep your cats’ health in check, but the FeLV alone is not as bad as it may sound. Hope this all works out for you… give Timmy a headrub for me. :)

Andreas's avatar

@knitfroggy One of the hardest decisions in life to make is whether and when to put our pets to sleep. Eighteen-months old is a baby, and all cat-lovers would have a similar run of emotions to you in this case. @TheOnlyNeffie “give Timmy a headrub for me. :) ” is something I second. Treat him well, but also remember: cats are very stoic and will often be in great pain even though they’re not showing any signs of pain. You can tell when that is as they are not their usual selves, they’re listless, always laying down, don’t roar around the house for 10/15 minutes at night, etc, etc, etc.

I wish you and your cats well.

syz's avatar

Feline leukemia is a dreadful disease, but like many chronic diseases, it can often be managed for quite some time. While FeLV + cats do not have a normal life span, they can often live with the disease for many years. I have to warn you, though, that if he’s sick at 18 months, he may not be one of the lucky ones. I would strongly urge that you take him in to the clinic for a definitive diagnosis, rather than an educated guess.

Feline leukemia is spread through bodily fluids and is considered highly contagious. Fighting is not necessary – mutual grooming can act as a transmission method. Have your other cats tested and talk to your vet about vaccinating against FeLV. Unless you specified a FeLV vaccine, they were most likely received an FVRC vaccine as a kitten, which protect against common feline viruses, and a rabies vaccine. And just as in humans, vaccines are not a “one shot deal” – your cats require boosters to maintain their protection.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Oh gosh, I just realized that I misread.. I thought it said 18 YEARS. Too late to edit my response.

knitfroggy's avatar

@All Thanks for the concern and wonderful answers. We have a lot of thinking and considering to do.

We just gave him some more tuna and he ate it better than he did last night. We didn’t force water down him today because we are thinking maybe there is enough water in the tuna. It’s obvious he feels better today, after being on the antibiotics for about 24 hours. And I’m gonna say his fever has gone because his nose feels wet and normal, not burning up.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

A kitten I got from a rescue shelter had contracted it before he was ever vaccinated so no one knew until a few years later when he started coming on with UTI’s. He evenutually had to be put to sleep even though we made changes to his food, I think he lived for about 3yrs. This was in the late 80’s though, maybe there are different strains now or better treatments.

knitfroggy's avatar

@Neizvestnaya What I’ve read online says that the life expectancy is about 2 to 3 years after the symptoms become evident. I really hope my Timmy makes it that long. But not if he is ill all the time or appears to be in pain. We will do what is best for him and have him put to sleep.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Google online and see if there’s a store that will sell or ship you cans of Felidae cat food. My sister just put one of her cats (resuce kitty) on it since he got sick recently and he’s doing a lot better. The food is USDA human grade with no added glutens other than rice if it’s listed as a rice mix item. Timmy is sure a cute name, makes me think of shorthair slinky grey.

knitfroggy's avatar

@Neizvestnaya He’s a medium length hair gray tabby. I will have to post a picture and link to it. Our other two cats are orange tabbys and my husband kept telling me I couldn’t get another cat unless it was an orange tabby too. I finally just brought Timmy home and said, he’s a tabby that’s good enough! He’s beautiful! Our other cats are Tabby and Tony. My husband wanted to name him Terry, but I threw Timmy out there and we all liked that.

The vet said we needed to put him on better food. We feed them Meow Mix. So, I am debating between IAMS or the vet recommended Hills Science Diet. I think they are pretty comparable in price, we will probably go with the Science Diet. Any tips on switching their food? They don’t like their food messed with!

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Switching food seems to give pets the runs for about a week and then they’re good. Look on the foods for the amount of sodium and pick the food with the least amount. The better quality the food, the better appetite animals seem to have.

knitfroggy's avatar

Timmy died last night. He got better for a few days and then he took a turn yesterday. He died sometime last night. I found him before I went to work. My husband took care of him before the kids woke up. He was suffering at the end, so it was a relief that he went on his own. We were going to take him to be put to sleep today.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

So sorry for your loss, hon. It’s hard to lose a pet. Big hugs for you. xo

knitfroggy's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie Thank you. I appreciate it.

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