Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Facts and Nothing But the Facts (and Where the Facts Get Murky)


I MISS MY RUBY!!!!! For those of you who missed it yesterday, our Ruby Ruby Roo was spayed on Monday morning. The vet clinic kept her overnight and it's been a long, quiet 24 hours without her great big purr. Norman has done a great job of keeping my legs warm, but I'm looking forward to getting my little girl home.


I'd even let her cause trouble with the palm fronds again... if we had any left. What Ruby started, Lincoln Quincy-Adams finished ;-)

Ruby will be home by 8 a.m. on Tuesday. I'll update everyone when she arrives.

Ruby Roo is home and bouncing around the house like nothing happened. She's sporting a shaved belly and a wicked cool tummy tattoo too.

************************************************

Holly Waterfall had some excellent questions for my research assistant/son Aidan in the comments of yesterday's blog post:

"Does the FIV ONLY pass through saliva or does it pass through other bodily fluids as well. Are transfusions and mating ways that it can be transmitted? Also, how long does the virus live outside the body i.e. do the cats need separate feeding areas, would they be prohibited from grooming each other, etc.?"

Well... we promised the facts (and nothing but the facts) but here is where facts and opinion cloud together and become a murky mess. The truth is that not even seasoned veterinarians agree on most of these issues, at least as far as we can tell through our research so far. Much of the evidence is anecdotal, as in someone knows someone who experienced living with an FIV+ cat and this is what happened to them. And, frustratingly, most of the anecdotal evidence contrasts with what our personal vets are telling us right now.

So, this is what we know (and what we know)....

Question #1: Can FIV be transmitted through contact with bodily fluids other than saliva.

Simple Answer #1: Yes. According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, the greatest method of infection comes through aggressive bite wounds (where the saliva of an infected cat comes into immediate contact with the bloodstream of another cat). There have been reported incidents, though rare, of kittens who were infected by their mothers. This infection can occur during the birth process or by drinking contaminated mother's milk. The act of mating does not seem to pass the infection, except in that male cats will control female cats at that time by biting their necks (making the bite the method of transmission).

Question #2: How long does the virus live outside the body?

Simple Answer #2: The virus is not believed to survive outside the cat for more than a few hours.

Question #3: Do the cats need separate feeding areas?

Simple Answer #3: It is probably (notice how we're getting into less definite adverbs here) a good idea to give an FIV+ cat a separate feeding area since the primary method of transmission is saliva. A positive cat's saliva will mix with food and water in the bowls, which could possibly infect cats who share the feeding station.

************************************************

And here's where it all gets murky, anecdotal, and hard for us to comprehend completely. So here is where we turn to our readers for answers. Let's call this an FIV Town Hall Meeting...

Our vet is admittedly inexperienced in treating FIV+ cats. She sees the occasional FIV+ cat who has been a house pet for years and has successfully helped the cat's family manage their immuno-suppressed conditions. She has little to no experience dealing with FIV+ mothers and litters of kittens born to those mothers. Some of her advice, while well meaning and founded on the scientific basics in veterinary textbooks, contradicts the advice of internet experts (those with the anecdotal evidence that makes me feel more hopeful in dealing with the virus). I've read a million stories of FIV+ cats living long lives, and living in households with other cats who have never been infected. I just don't know if I can trust that information.

I'm confused and muddled as to a lot of the specifics right now, other than how it is transmitted and why it's a good idea to send FIV+ cats to homes without other animals. And just so we're clear... My research shows that mixing FIV+ and FIV- cats is probably more detrimental to the FIV+ cat, exposing the immuno-suppressed cat to simple germs which can become a more serious illness for the positive cat rather than exposing negative cats to the virus to begin with.

Kelly's Question #1: Show of hands... How many of you have either fostered FIV+ kittens or know personally of someone who has, either through your shelter/rescue or through your vet's office?

Kelly's Question #2: Of those of you who have fostered FIV+ kittens, how many of you had their mothers in the home with them?

Kelly's Questions #3, 4, 5: We know that kittens of FIV+ mothers will routinely test positive in the early weeks of life because they are exposed to the mother's antibodies during gestation and through nursing. Do the kittens have to be completely weaned before the potentially false positive test result reverts to negative? If they do not have to be weaned, how old should they be? If they test positive, how long should we wait to test them again?

Kelly's Questions #6 and 7: How inaccurate are the snap tests? Is it worth our time and the rescue's money to retest Mama Madison in hopes of a different result?

Kelly's Questions #8, 9, 10: If the kittens test positive at 9 weeks, what are the likelihood that they will test negative on the retest? Do we keep them within the rescue for an additional 2-3 months for retesting in order to have a more accurate result at the time of adoption? Or do we put them up for adoption as FIV+ kittens with as much information and advice as we can offer to their forever families?

While Aidan and I are getting better at google searching the answers to our questions about FIV, we're by no means experts. We're feeling our way through the experience of this litter together with our vet and our rescue director. One way or another we'll have our answers soon. The kittens will visit the vet later this week and we'll acquire our first baseline of information. It helps to have you all here, whether you have the concrete answers I seek or not. I'm content to have my cute little lab cats in the front room to entertain me while I wait for answers. And I'm thrilled to have support in those moments when I'm worried or unsure of which step to take next.

And while we're waiting for answers... Here are some photos of some cute kittens:











... And to make it up for this less cute than average post, Aidan offers you a Zelda tongue






13 comments:

  1. A couple websites that should have some useful info for you - www.crashslanding.org is a rescue in Grand Rapids (Michigan) that has a shelter specifically for FIV and Feleuk cats. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (www.bestfriends.org) also has lots of info on their site, including some specific discussions of the various tests used.

    One thing you haven't mentioned is that there is a vaccine that can be given to healthy cats to prevent the transmission of FIV. Unlike the vaccine for feleuk, it is highly effective.

    Friendly, spayed/neutered cats can live together regardless of their FIV status. At Crash's, we have many volunteers and supporters who have adopted FIV cats to live with non-FIV cats and there has been no transmission of the disease. It is not necessary to segregate either the cats themselves or their feeding or litter stations.

    It is imperative that FIV cats be indoor only cats so they don't encounter strays or ferals. Stress can also impact their health so a loving environment and regular vet care are essential.

    I will say that of all the cats I have known, many of the sweetest, friendliest, most loving have been FIV and/or feleuk positive cats. Many other volunteers at Big Sid's (our FIV/feleuk shelter) say the same thing. It's like they know that they are receiving special care and are extra grateful for it!

    Oops, it looks like I hijacked your thread. Sorry! But I feel passionate about this issue - there are too many ignorant people (even vets!) who think these cats should automatically be put down whether they are otherwise healthy or not. I want to change that perception whenever and wherever I can!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hijack away! Remember that I *asked* for these answers. The vets and my rescue are inexperienced enough with this that I'm doing most of the research on my own and running into so many contradictions that I often forget what to believe any more.

      One thing is certain... this family is so very sweet and I'm glad we plucked them from the shelter before they were tested... it gave them the chance they needed to survive. Now we'll make sure they live the good life.

      Delete
  2. Yeah - Zelda tongue!!

    We haven't fostered FIV+ kittens. However, our friend Miss Kelly had an FIV+ cat that lived many years - and with other cats in her home. It is hard when you get SO much conflicting information. For years, shelters have seen a positive test and had the knee jerk "euthanize" reaction. Partly because the public isn't getting the right information and the adoption of these cats can be harder. We like this article from Best Friends: http://www.bestfriends.org/Resources/Pet-Care/Cats/Health-And-Care/Feline-Immunodeficiency-Virus-(FIV)/ The rescue that we work with has FIV+ cats. And if you want, we bet we could put you in contact with Miss Kelly and her vet. Miss Kelly got Murphy when he was over a year, but her vet got very good at working with him and keeping him very healthy. :) We think the biggest hurdle for these cats is the public perception of FIV. Thanks for getting this out there.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly... if anything, this post shows the confusion and misinformation that's out there about FIV. The foster community needs education so we can save these cats who vets sometimes believe cannot be saved.

      I should have more concrete information very very soon.

      Delete
  3. Kelly, is there a way I can message you privately? Either through here or email or FB?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely. The easiest way is that you should be able to send me a message through the Whiskers Facebook page. Look underneath the cover photo for the message button. If it's missing, feel free to friend me on Facebook (you'll recognize the photo for Kelly Botkin). Actually, you can all feel free to do that last part anyway ;-)

      Delete
  4. Kelly and Aidan-Thanks so much for those answers. You *know* that whatever appears on the internet is *definitely* true. (snicker) But I wouldn't know the difference one way or another. Generally, if I see something more than once I tend to believe it. I also believe you and Robyn (of Love n Hisses). Btw, Bear always looks like such a hot mess in those pictures. Keep doing your thing with disseminating info and kisses!((hugs)) to Ruby also.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hugs right back. Answers are coming (sooner than later). I tend to believe the conventional wisdom and anecdotal evidence of those who have actually been there. I think we're going to be okay here.

      Delete
  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpGZUQFF5yA

    http://www.amazon.com/Very-Healthy-Book-Wendell-Belfield/dp/0962994707

    unfortunately my only experience with FIV was the shelter put them down. This was in the early days of the foster program and they were still so overwhelmed with kittens. I also had recently lost one of them shortly before they were tested at six weeks so I don't disagree with the decision... I hated it, but I understood it. Now the shelter routinely puts them up for adoption. We even took in a bonded pair from across the country because they had no where else to go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. More answers on the way. Perhaps they're not the absolute scientific answers, but I prefer the answers of those who have been in the trenches with it.

      I'm not worried about getting these guys adopted. I'm more concerned about getting them taken care of right (if that makes sense)

      Delete
  6. My vet says that another good source of info is veterinarypartner.com.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is a great post! FIV is such a touchy topic!!
    first, i must say.. in our group (Forgotten Felines, Huntsville, AL), wr call Ruby a "torbi". A Tabby cat with Tortie spots! By CFA standard, she is a brown patched tabby
    Meaning a tabby with orange spots!
    Secondly, FIV kittens that test positive even withib a month or two of retest will most USUALLY test negative upon retest. I have never had a kitten test positive upon retest. Also, be VERY WARY of vaccinating your non positive cats for FIV. Once vaccinated, even if only ever vaccinated once for FIV, a cat will ALWAYS test positive for Fiv Afterwards. The SNAP test cannot discern from the viral strain and the vaccination strain and if your cat is inside/outside or gets out and someone finds it....well let's just say not all vets believe in saving FIV+ cts. Also, we have a large foster room with a mix of FIV+ cats and Leuk+ cats and nob positive cats. We retest the cats who.have not been adopted evrry few years and so far, no one has converted. Granted, the non positives ARE vaccinated for leukemia, of course.
    Interestingly, this is the first I've heard (not.to say it's wronf) that cats can spread FIV via saliva to blood. Our vet says only blood to blood and the cat has to be actively shedding the virus.
    Sorry, didn't mean to hijack as well!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is a great post! FIV is such a touchy topic!!
    first, i must say.. in our group (Forgotten Felines, Huntsville, AL), wr call Ruby a "torbi". A Tabby cat with Tortie spots! By CFA standard, she is a brown patched tabby
    Meaning a tabby with orange spots!
    Secondly, FIV kittens that test positive even withib a month or two of retest will most USUALLY test negative upon retest. I have never had a kitten test positive upon retest. Also, be VERY WARY of vaccinating your non positive cats for FIV. Once vaccinated, even if only ever vaccinated once for FIV, a cat will ALWAYS test positive for Fiv Afterwards. The SNAP test cannot discern from the viral strain and the vaccination strain and if your cat is inside/outside or gets out and someone finds it....well let's just say not all vets believe in saving FIV+ cts. Also, we have a large foster room with a mix of FIV+ cats and Leuk+ cats and nob positive cats. We retest the cats who.have not been adopted evrry few years and so far, no one has converted. Granted, the non positives ARE vaccinated for leukemia, of course.
    Interestingly, this is the first I've heard (not.to say it's wronf) that cats can spread FIV via saliva to blood. Our vet says only blood to blood and the cat has to be actively shedding the virus.
    Sorry, didn't mean to hijack as well!!

    ReplyDelete