FIV, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, is a virus in cats that is similar to human HIV. Usually, cats are infected early in life but don’t become clinically sick for years; these cats are usually diagnosed by routine blood testing.
The virus hangs out in the immune system for years. While it lives there, the virus weakens the immune system. The more immune challenges the FIV infected cat encounters, the more likely that cat will have a shortened life expectancy. On the flipside, there are wonderful examples of FIV positive cats who live to 18 years old.
For the owner of one of these cats, it may be a challenge to help these cats live to a good old age with good quality of life. The key is in taking care of the immune system. Almost 75% of the immune system lives in the intestinal tract in any mammal. This means that what we put in our mouth is more important than anything else we can do. This is especially true for FIV positive cats. These cats should eat very low antigen diets. What this means is a diet with low allergy stimulating ability. Diets that are least likely to over stimulate the immune system are those made with pure, fresh ingredients. For cats, these diets should be 80 to 90% meat. The remainder of the diet being a mixture of whole grains and fruits and vegetables.
Other things to consider for the FIV positive cat: minimal vaccines, minimal use of chemicals, and avoid heavy cleaning products in the house. Other than legal requirements, the argument can be made that FIV positive cats should never receive another vaccine in their lives. Any flea product, any medication, any other type of chemical can all have effects on the immune system. Any of these can weaken the defenses of an FIV positive cat.
Similarly, exposure to fleas, mold, and any other environmental allergen can attack the immune system and be equally hazardous. Therefore, the owner of an FIV positive cat must walk a fine line to protect the kitty.
FIV positive cats can live to a wonderful old age without living in a bubble. By working with your holistic veterinarian, you can achieve the happy balance that should protect your kitty for years to come.
Dr. Cathy Alinovi DVM
As a practicing veterinarian, Dr. Cathy treated 80% of what walked in the door — not with expensive prescriptions — but with adequate nutrition. Now retired from private practice, her commitment to pets hasn’t waned and she looks forward to impacting many more pet parents through her books, research, speaking and consulting work. Learn more at drcathyvet.com