Having your kitty diagnosed with feline leukemia is one of the worst nightmares of a cat parent.
After all, feline leukemia is caused by the FeLV or the feline leukemia virus, which is a retrovirus that attacks the immune system of the infected cat.
What’s even more disheartening is that because of the misinformation surrounding feline leukemia, a lot of cat owners have their cats euthanized as soon as the diagnosis is made.
But does every cat diagnosed with feline leukemia have to be euthanized? If not, then how should you decide when it is time to euthanize a cat with feline leukemia?
- Cats with feline leukemia can live for several years with proper care and treatment.
- The most common symptoms of final-stage feline leukemia are weight loss, lethargy, blindness, and recurrent infections.
- Alternative treatments should be tried before considering euthanasia or hospice care for a cat with feline leukemia.
- Euthanasia should be considered when hospice care is no longer effective in keeping the cat comfortable and pain-free.
What Is The Life Expectancy Of A Cat With Feline Leukemia?
Contrary to what the rumors say, not all cats die immediately after contracting feline leukemia. There are a lot of cats that are able to live a sufficiently prolonged life even after this devastating diagnosis.
According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, the median life of cats diagnosed with feline leukemia is approximately 2.5 years.
This alone should be a reason enough to make you reconsider immediate euthanasia. With proper care and treatment, you will be able to spend many more months with your cat.
In fact, if the diagnosis is made early on and if the treatment starts quickly, some cats with feline leukemia will even be able to live for 3 to 4 years. That’s a whopping 1000 or more days that you get to spend with your cat despite the dreaded disease!
It is only when the disease is diagnosed in the later stages, when it becomes aggressive and starts showing more and more symptoms, that the survival of cats falls below 1 year.
This is when looking at euthanasia as an option could be helpful – because, by the time a cat reaches this stage of feline leukemia, the symptoms become painful and insufferable.
The Signs Of Final Stage Feline Leukemia
If your cat has been diagnosed with feline leukemia, it is important for you to know what the signs of final-stage feline leukemia may look like.
This will allow you to make informed decisions such as when to look for alternative treatment, when to switch to hospice care, and when would euthanasia be a more peaceful and humane option.
The most common signs of final-stage feline leukemia manifest as:
- Drastic loss in weight
- Lethargy to a point that the cat has stopped grooming itself – this can look like extremely poor hygiene, bad body odor, and bad smell from their mouths
- The cat completely stops eating food
- Partial or total blindness
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Recurring infections in the upper respiratory tract, bladder, and/or skin
- Neurological disorders
- Inability to defecate or urinate properly
- Unwillingness to eat, drink, or use the litter box
If your cat has started showing these signs, and if the quality of life of your cat has been progressively deteriorating, then you may have to start taking euthanasia into consideration.
Must Read: How To Euthanize A Cat At Home?
Should You Choose Euthanasia Or Hospice Care For Your Cat With Feline Leukemia?
When the existing treatment stops working, you should not immediately jump to euthanasia as the only way out. Instead, you should exhaust all alternate treatment options if you can, before taking any tough call.
If no treatment seems to work, then you should first switch to hospice care.
Hospice care is when your cat will be given medicines to treat the symptoms as best as possible, with the primary purpose of keeping the pain away.
So, while hospice care won’t be much useful in terms of treating the ailment, it will keep your cat as painless and peaceful as possible.
Only when hospice care also stops working, you should take euthanasia into consideration. Cats are resilient. Sometimes, hospice care allows cats to get the few extra days of painless life that they wholly deserve.
Interesting Read: How To Euthanize A Cat With Over-The-Counter Drugs?
Frequently Asked Questions
What triggers feline leukemia?
Cats can contract FeLV from each other through their saliva, blood, nasal secretions, urine, or feces. Bite wounds, severe scratches, or actions like grooming each other while eating or drinking or using the same litter box can all spread the disease.
What do you feed a cat with leukemia?
FeLV-positive cats should not be fed raw food due to their compromised immune systems; instead, they should be given a comprehensive and balanced dry and/or canned diet.
Is FeLV worse than FIV?
Compared to FIV, feline leukemia (FeLV) is far more deadly. This is due to the fact that in young cats, FeLV frequently causes significant bone marrow suppression (such as anemia), leukemia (such as malignancy of the bone marrow or circulating white and red blood cells), and cancer (such as lymphoma).
A cat diagnosed with feline leukemia should not be immediately euthanized. A lot of cats with early diagnosis and proper treatment can live sufficiently long lives even with FeLV.
Interesting Read: Did I Put My Cat To Sleep Too Soon?
However, if the quality of life of your cat with leukemia starts to deteriorate, and if your cat is showing severe symptoms of final-stage leukemia, it may be time to consider euthanizing your cat.
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