Friday, September 12, 2008

Our Decision

Here is some stuff I’ve heard from a vet in Catoosa (who was the friendliest and most helpful person I’ve talked to thus far), and different websites:

First Said:

“About 30% of cats who are infected with the virus develop immunity to the disease and never become ill. About 40% will have a latent infection or become carriers. Latent feline leukemia is suppressed in the bone marrow or central nervous system and can come out if the immune system is stressed. These cats are not contagious but can pass the virus to kittens if they become pregnant. Carriers do not become ill, but have the virus in their bloodstreams and are contagious. About 30% of cats infected with feline leukemia are persistently ill, and about half of these cats die within the first 2 years.”

Second Said:

What can happen if a cat is infected with the FeLV?

"When we are exposed to a virus, such as a flu virus, there are two possible outcomes. Either our immune system responds to the challenge and protects us, or it is unable to respond successfully and we develop the flu. A number of factors determine which outcome occurs and whether or not we will get sick:
A. The amount of the virus (Did someone sneeze directly in your face?).

B. The strain of the virus (Some strains are more potent than others).
C. The status of our immune system (are immune suppressing drugs being taken?).
D. Age (the very young and very old are more likely to become infected).
E. The presence of other infections, which might cause debilitation.
The behavior of the feline leukemia virus in the cat’s body is not so black or white. Instead of the two possible outcomes described above (i.e., we get sick or we get well), there are four possible outcomes for cats with FeLV. Understanding these allows one to more fully comprehend some of the unusual situations, which may arise in cats.

OUTCOME 1: IMMUNITY - The cat mounts an immune response, eliminating the infection.
This is the most desired outcome because it means that the cat will not become persistently infected with the virus. During this period of virus challenge, the cat may actually develop a mild form of illness. Fever, poor appetite, lethargy, and swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck may develop and last for 3 to 10 days. Outcome 1 occurs about 40% of the time after FeLV challenges a cat. Immunity to the virus is more likely to develop in the adult cat than in the kitten.

OUTCOME 2: INFECTION - The cat's immune system is overwhelmed by the virus.
This is the least desired outcome because the cat becomes permanently infected with the virus. Although the cat may be sick for a few days initially (as described above), it usually recovers and appears normal for weeks, months, or years. Ultimately, most of these cats die of FeLV-related disease, but as many as 50% will still be healthy after 2-3 years and 15% after 4 years. Vaccination of these cats will not cause any problems, but doesn't help the cat, either. Outcome 2 occurs an estimated 30% of the time after a cat is challenged by the FeLV.

OUTCOME 3: LATENCY - The cat harbors the virus but we cannot easily detect it.
Unlike other viruses, the FeLV does not directly kill the cat's cells or make them become cancerous. Instead, it inserts a copy of its own genetic material (called DNA) into the cat's cells; these cells may later be transformed into cancer cells or cells which will no longer function normally. In Outcome 3, the genetic change in the cat's cells will remain undetected for an average of 2 ½ years, during which time the cat will appear completely normal.In the early stages of infection, the blood ELISA and IFA tests will remain consistently negative. The PCR test, a recently available diagnostic tool, will detect the latent infection. However, this test is somewhat expensive and not widely available so it is not used for routine testing.

OUTCOME 4: IMMUNE CARRIER - The cat becomes an immune carrier.
The FeLV becomes hidden in some of the cat's epithelial cells. Although the FeLV is multiplying, it is not able to get out of these cells because the cat is producing antibodies against the virus. The cat will appear normal in every way. This situation is uncommon and probably occurs only 1-2% of the time."

Third Said:

“Blood tests are available for screening for FeLV. The most commonly used test is the ELISA test, which looks for viral antigen (protein) in the blood. This is available as an in-house kit. It is imperative to follow the instructions for whatever test is used exactly, as the consequences of both a false positive and a false negative test are potentially severe. Staff members performing the test should be trained and periodically evaluated. The blood test may also falsely identify recently infected cats as negative. To be absolutely certain, cats must be tested 1-3 months after their last known exposure. Acutely infected kittens may have several years of good quality life before developing signs of disease, and some individual cats may live much longer.”

**(I don’t know what test was used to test her, but this seems to be the most commonly used one. I’ll ask tomorrow when I see one of the ladies that run OFR.)**

And I could go on and on…there is so much online to give me hope, even if it’s only a 25-30% chance that she could fight this off completely and never suffer from it at all. According to that one site, it’s only a 30% chance she could be persistently ill and die within the first 2 years. That is just too much of a margin of her possibly being okay, for even several years from now, that I just can’t justify putting her down at this time. Now, if that changes, and she stops eating and starts acting real sick, then we will do what is necessary for her. We will keep her, until we know for sure. We will have her tested again in 3 months, and hope to all that is holy that she will test negative.


Blogger Dawn Allenbach said...

Has Sugar been vaccinated for FeLV, because if she hasn't then you'll be worrying about both cats.

I understand your feelings, and I would be distraught, too (I was so worried while a lump on Reba's side was tested several months ago). However, you should think eveything through with your head and not your emotions. I'm not suggesting you put her down, nor am I suggesting you spend hundreds of dollars on treatment. I'm neutral, but as a biologist with a limited knowledge of pathogens, I feel obligated to point out that those stats are most likely from adult, healthy cats. Because Bella is a kitten less than six months of age and had been in a shelter having been exposed to who knows what, her chances MAY be lower than 25-30%. On the flip side, because she is so young, the ELISA may not be as reliable.

I know you love her, but feline leukemia is a horrible, painful disease. Whether you do treatment or not, make sure you're making your decision for HER.

Praying for strength for you to make the best decision possible.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Sugar was vaccinated right after she tested negative, the same day Bella tested positive. We will have her vaccinated again in 3 weeks, and then tested again in 3 months.

Roger and I decided that the minute she shows signs of suffering..we will put her to rest.

The vet I talked to in Catoosa told me that she has some things working in her favor. She said that Bella being so young may be a plus for her, because her immune system may work harder to expell the virus. Bella still has a healthy appetite, still drinks water, still has solid poo, still has a healthy, soft, shiny coat, still runs around the house, climbs on things, gets into things and plays with everything she can get her paws on. She said all that is a good thing, and may help her to beat it too.

I will not force her to eat and I will not force her to stay with me while she suffers, but I can't put her down if she has a chance. I just pray every chance I get that she has a strong immune system, and a strong will to live and that everything we do to help boost her immune system actually helps.

That is all I know to do...this has been so hard on me, because she is the lap kitty I always wanted, she is the sweetest little thing I've ever had the pleasure to meet, and I'm still not quite over Ginger's passing.

Thank you for the strength prayers...we need as much as we can get right now.

3:16 AM  

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