Vet Hansel answers your questions about pet care in this weekly advice column, created in partnership with the Bahrain Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA). It will also be highlighting each week some of the animals in the BSPCA sanctuary, in the hope of finding each of them a loving home.
Question: My cat, Pedro, has been losing weight and his coat seems to be losing its shine. My friends think he has feline aids, please tell me more about this disease and if it can be transferred to people?
Answer: Firstly, there are many issues that could cause the symptoms you have mentioned, and it could be something as simple as a change in his diet, so the first thing is to take him to a vet.
Secondly, feline aids is a highly species-specific virus that only infects felines and is not transferable to people or other species.
Feline immunodeficiency virus, also known as FIV, is an infectious disease caused by a retrovirus which is in the same family as the feline leukemia virus. The virus is present in large quantities in the cat’s saliva, and the most common mode of transmission is via bite wounds.
Cats do not become infected via mutual grooming, nor will the act of mating pass on the virus, although the biting that goes along with mating could pass it on. Occasionally FIV is passed onto kittens whose mother is FIV positive.
This viral infection attacks the immune system, leading to symptoms such as weight loss, poor coat condition, anaemia, gingivitis, diarrhoea, chronic or recurrent infections and can also lead to cancer.
A vet can diagnose FIV based on history, clinical signs and a blood test.
There are many things to rule out before your vet will test for FIV and diagnosis cannot be made from the symptoms you have mentioned, so book him an appointment.
l Dr Hansel Geo is a veterinary consultant and surgeon for the BSPCA. Please send questions to [email protected]