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How To Know When To Put Down A Cat With FIV?

How To Know When To Put Down A Cat With FIV?

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) attacks the cat’s immune system, and makes her more vulnerable to other health conditions.

There isn’t a concrete cure for this infectious disease, but many cats with FIV might still live an average lifespan.

Unfortunately, not all cats will be this fortunate. FIV doesn’t usually result in a fatal outcome, however, it does make cats more susceptible to certain diseases that can be life-threatening to them.

Therefore, in some cases, the veterinarian’s advice will be to euthanize a cat with FIV.

If you’re currently struggling with this, I’m sure this is one of the hardest decisions you have ever had to make. Still, it’s essential to understand that, in some situations, euthanizing a pet means liberating it from pain.

Let’s see how to know when to put down a cat with FIV.

In What Situations Is Euthanasia The Only Option?

a cat with open wounds around its neck

Your cat getting diagnosed with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus doesn’t mean she got a death sentence. 

But, her condition can get so bad that your veterinarian might explain how euthanasia is the only option.

This happens in the following situations:

• If your cat has suffered severe weight loss, and shows no desire for food or drinking

• If she has developed severe dangerous health conditions together with FIV

• If she has difficulties with breathing and moving

• If she shows severe aggression

• If she has sores and open wounds on her body that don’t seem to be healing

You might notice these severe symptoms in your cat, but still hope for her to get better. Unfortunately, this isn’t a realistic expectation.

This is the moment when you should talk to your veterinarian about the best approach. He will only suggest euthanasia where there isn’t anything else to do.

This means that full recovery isn’t possible, and that prolonging your cat’s life any further would just mean making her suffer more.

What Is The Prognosis For Cats With FIV?

FIV in cats isn’t curable, but many cats with this virus can still live a normal, healthy life, as explained by Cornell Feline Health Center.

The most crucial aspect of caring for a cat with FIV is to minimize the risk of them contracting secondary infections and to prevent them from spreading the virus to other cats.

When your cat gets infected, you should feed her with a balanced diet, especially avoiding giving her raw food and unpasteurized dairy products, since they might be a source of parasite and bacterial infections.

However, even a previously perfectly healthy cat can suffer from severe consequences after getting infected with FIV.

Bendinelli and his associates [1] explain how FIV is associated with a large variety of neurological manifestations, superinfections, and tumors.

How Is FIV Transmitted Among Cats?

cat with lost weight sits on tiles

Most cats get infected with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus by suffering a bite from an infected cat.

This means that intact males are at a higher risk of developing this infection. They are likely to run away from home and get into fights with other males to compete for mates and for territory.

Sometimes, a mother infected with FIV might transmit it to her kittens, but this doesn’t happen too often.

What Are Typical FIV Symptoms?

A cat with FIV infection goes through three phases that differ in symptoms. 

These are the acute phase, the asymptomatic phase, and the progressive phase.

The first phase happens 1-3 months after the cat has been exposed to the virus. Some symptoms that might appear in this period are lethargy, fever, and lack of appetite.

Following the acute phase is the asymptomatic phase, which can persist for months or even years. Since there will be no clinical signs during this phase, many cat owners won’t even notice their cats are infected.

The progressive phase doesn’t occur with all cats. Some of them might remain in the asymptomatic phase, and won’t develop any severe diseases.

However, some might suffer from multiple secondary infections in this last phase of the disease.

Some of the most common health problems that might occur are weight loss, seizures, neurological disorders, dental disease, and infections of the cat’s skin and urinary tract.

Unfortunately, if a cat develops any of these problems due to FIV, their life expectancy is typically limited to just a few months.

Is There A Way To Prevent A Cat From Getting Infected?

Although getting diagnosed with FIV doesn’t necessarily mean that your cat’s life will be threatened, knowing that there is a chance for this, of course, makes you all wonder if there is some way to prevent it.

The only thing you can do is to decrease the possibility of your cat getting infected, by stopping it from wandering outside, and getting into contact with other cats, since bites are the most common way of FIV transmission.

If your cat, however, still gets infected, you should show responsible behavior, and isolate her from other cats to prevent the infection from further spreading.

How To Cope With Putting Down Your Cat With FIV?

cat being euthanized at the vet

Hearing the ultimate decision that it would be best to euthanize your cat certainly makes you wonder whether your cat will forgive you for putting her to sleep.

It’s an emotionally challenging situation, but it’s essential to come to terms with the fact that, at this stage, your cat isn’t experiencing a good quality of life. She’s in pain, in distress, and in fear. These are the moments when she needs you to make the inevitable decision.

No matter how hard it is, you should be aware that there isn’t a treatment for your beloved pet, and euthanasia is the only way to end her suffering.

Also, you should know that your cat isn’t able to recover successfully, meaning that you won’t see her enjoying her normal activities as she used to do.

Only when there isn’t adequate medical treatment to improve the cat’s health and her quality of life, is when a veterinarian advises putting her down.

In severe cases of FIV and accompanying secondary infections, euthanasia is the last resort, and a dignified way for letting your dear pet go.

If you feel brave enough, you shouldn’t leave your dying cat alone, but rather be there for her and pet her in her last moments.

Final Words

Putting down a cat with FIV is only recommended when there is no possibility of a successful recovery, and when her health has deteriorated to the point where she can no longer lead a normal life.

While some cats can live with FIV for years without developing any complications, some are just less lucky and end up with severe secondary infections.

A big part of pet parenting is knowing when to let go. 

Therefore, no matter how hard it is, if your veterinarian has advised you this, then euthanasia is the only human option, and the only way of liberating your cat from all pain she has been experiencing lately.

[1] Bendinelli M, Feline immunodeficiency virus: an interesting model for AIDS studies and an important cat pathogen. Clin Microbiol Rev. 1995 Jan;8(1):87-112. DOI, Retrieved August 28, 2023.