Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection in domestic pet cats in Australia and New Zealand: Guidelines for diagnosis, prevention and management

M. E. Westman, S. J. Coggins, M. van Dorsselaer, J. M. Norris, R. A. Squires, M. Thompson, R. Malik

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Despite the passage of over 30 years since its discovery, the importance of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) on the health and longevity of infected domestic cats is hotly debated amongst feline experts. Notwithstanding the absence of good quality information, Australian and New Zealand (NZ) veterinarians should aim to minimise the exposure of cats to FIV. The most reliable way to achieve this goal is to recommend that all pet cats are kept exclusively indoors, or with secure outdoor access (e.g., cat enclosures, secure gardens), with FIV testing of any in-contact cats. All animal holding facilities should aim to individually house adult cats to limit the spread of FIV infection in groups of animals that are stressed and do not have established social hierarchies. Point-of-care (PoC) FIV antibody tests are available in Australia and NZ that can distinguish FIV-infected and uninfected FIV-vaccinated cats (Witness™ and Anigen Rapid™). Although testing of whole blood, serum or plasma remains the gold standard for FIV diagnosis, PoC testing using saliva may offer a welfare-friendly alternative in the future. PCR testing to detect FIV infection is not recommended as a screening procedure since a negative PCR result does not rule out FIV infection and is only recommended in specific scenarios. Australia and NZ are two of three countries where a dual subtype FIV vaccine (Fel-O-Vax® FIV) is available and offers a further avenue for disease prevention. Since FIV vaccination only has a reported field effectiveness of 56% in Australia, and possibly lower in NZ, FIV-vaccinated cats should undergo annual FIV testing prior to annual FIV re-vaccination using a suitable PoC kit to check infection has not occurred in the preceding year. With FIV-infected cats, clinicians should strive to be even more thorough than usual at detecting early signs of disease. The most effective way to enhance the quality of life and life expectancy of FIV-infected cats is to optimise basic husbandry and to treat any concurrent conditions early in the disease course. Currently, no available drugs are registered for the treatment of FIV infection. Critically, the euthanasia of healthy FIV-infected cats, and sick FIV-infected cats without appropriate clinical investigations, should not occur.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-359
Number of pages15
JournalAustralian Veterinary Journal
Issue number8
Early online date16 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


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