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Tip of the Week: Testing for FeLV/FIV? Don’t Take Your Pick of the Litter

Testing for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infections is performed on a regular basis in many animal shelters. This testing is helpful in determining a cat’s health status, which impacts his or her medical needs as well as the ideal type of home – but only if it’s done right. The most common screening tests can be performed quickly and easily in the shelter using a blood sample, and many commercially available kits will detect both infections with a single test.

Kittens in the same litter may have different test results for a number of reasons, so don’t assume that the results of one kitten are representative of those for the entire litter. In some cases, one or two kittens will test positive for FeLV while the others test negative, but there is no way to know an individual kitten’s status without testing individually.

It is also important that only a single kitten’s blood sample be tested at one time; “pooled” samples should not be used as this can also give inaccurate results. For example, if samples are combined from three kittens, but only one kitten has FeLV viral particles circulating in his bloodstream, the result may still be negative. This happens because combining multiple samples dilutes each one, increasing the risk that the test won’t be able to pick up the low amounts of virus present.

What are the protocols for FIV/FeLV testing of kittens at your agency? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box.

Photo: Stephanie Janeczko, DVM, MS, Dipl. ABVP (Canine/Feline)

Related links:
Recommended Feline Shelter Vaccines
“Tip of the Week: Chip Chip Hooray”
Webinar Series: ASV Shelter Guidelines

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