Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a globally common retrovirus that, unlike human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), is not well characterized or predictable and has ill-defined clinical stages. Records from 76 FIV-infected and 444 uninfected cats were reviewed to describe risk factors and to compare hematologic and biochemical changes, major clinical problems, and survival.

Prevalence of FIV was 14.6%, similar to that of other studies conducted from the area. Crossbreed male cats >5 years of age had a higher risk for infection than purebred females. The only statistically significant hematologic and biochemical changes noted were that FIV-infected cats were less likely to be hyponatremic and more likely to be monocytopenic. Of cats tested for FIV, 95% presented with clinical problems, commonly neoplasia and GI disease. Given that the study population mainly consisted of ill patients, the control group is unlikely representative of the total population of FIV-uninfected cats. Despite that potential discrepancy, this study found no difference in survival age or survival time between FIV-infected and FIV-uninfected cats. Diagnosis of FIV should be interpreted in light of all other signs and should not necessarily carry an immediate death sentence.

Global Commentary
This study found little difference in clinical, clinicopathological, and survival data between FIV-infected cats and FIV-uninfected cats. That the prognosis for an individual should not be determined simply by its FIV status is clearly a valid conclusion; however, these data do not support ignoring FIV status. The controls were mostly or all presented to the practice with other diseases. As such, a lack of difference in survival (and other data) cannot be taken to infer FIV had no effect. In fact, the effect of FIV itself on these variables is difficult to impossible to determine.

This study highlighted the need to develop accessible markers to determine the clinical relevance of FIV in infected cats—that would be a great step forward.—Andrew Sparkes, BVetMed, PhD, DECVIM, MRCVS

Clinical findings and survival in cats naturally infected with feline immunodeficiency virus. Liem BP, Dhand NK, Pepper AE, et al. JVIM 27:798-805, 2013.

This capsule is part of the WSAVA Global Edition of Clinician's Brief.