What is feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)?

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a viral infection that can lead to severe and potentially fatal illness in cats by compromising their immune system. Cats become more vulnerable to bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections as the infection progresses.

Manifestations of FIV infection may include persistent gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), skin disorders, and weight loss. Additionally, FIV has been associated with the development of kidney and neurological conditions. In some cases, FIV weakens the immune system to the extent that cats are unable to fend off secondary infections and diseases, ultimately leading to death. Furthermore, FIV infection has been linked to an increased susceptibility to certain types of cancers. 

The Vaccination Schedule

The primary course of the FIV vaccination schedule consists of three (3) FIV boosters, which must be given 2-4 weeks apart. The FIV vaccinations can be given at the same time as your cat’s F3 vaccination, but they will be given in two separate needles.

Annual FIV boosters will be required once your cat has completed their FIV primary course.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a vaccine available for FIV?

Yes. The FIV vaccination consists of an initial course of 3 vaccinations 2-4 weeks apart, followed by a yearly booster.

How effective is the vaccine?

The FIV vaccine faces challenges due to the high genetic and antigenic diversity of FIV. Based on the literature, the efficacy of the FIV vaccine is estimated to be between 56-66%. While it provides a significant level of protection, it’s important to acknowledge the complexity of providing complete immunity against such a diverse pathogen.

The human influenza vaccine, by comparison, is reported in the literature to have an estimated efficacy of 54%-59%.

Why has there been supply issues of the FIV vaccine in the past 12 months?

Supply issues with the FIV vaccine over the past 12 months stemmed from a major equipment malfunction experienced by the sole supplier in 2023. This incident resulted in a worldwide shortage of the vaccine. Compounding the problem, FIV vaccines are manufactured in the USA and shipped to Australia, leading to delays due to international shipping and customs requirements. Limited supply is anticipated to become available in May 2024, with stock levels expected to normalize by August 2024.

What is the booking process to get my cat vaccinated?

As stock is reintroduced, we will proactively inform clients about its availability through staggered communication over several months, tailored to each cat’s FIV vaccination schedule.

Once bookings open, clients can reach out to the clinic via telephone or online to schedule appointments. To secure their vaccines due to limited supply, we kindly request clients to prepay for FIV appointments when booking.

To ensure you receive all updates and communication regarding stock availability, please ensure your contact details at the clinic are up to date.

What happens if my cat is late in receiving the Annual FIV Booster due to the supply issues?

If your cat is late in receiving the Annual FIV Booster due to supply issues, the required action will depend on the duration of the delay:

  • Cats less than 3 months overdue for the Annual FIV Booster after completing their primary vaccination course will not require additional boosters.
  • Cats that are less than 6 months overdue (but more than 3 months overdue) for the Annual FIV Booster after completing their primary vaccination course will need two FIV boosters, given 2-4 weeks apart.
  • Cats that are more than 6 months overdue for the annual FIV booster after completing their primary vaccination course will require the full primary course, which consists of three FIV boosters, given 2-4 weeks apart.

If your cat was partway through their primary vaccination course, it’s best to discuss the situation with the Brighton Vet Team for personalised guidance.

Is my cat at risk of contracting FIV?

Does your cat go outside?

  • Any outdoor access puts your cat at risk of infection.

Has your cat ever been in a fight with another cat?

  • Cats, particularly male cats, like their own territory, so they commonly squabble over boundaries. If an FIV-infected cat bites your cat, the virus can be transmitted via saliva.

Are there any stray cats in your area?

  • Stray cats visit many houses at night looking for food or mates, making them more prone to territorial disputes and fighting. This puts them at high risk of FIV infection, creating a high infection risk for pet cats in their area.

Has your cat ever had an abscess?

  • An abscess is an infection under the skin. They are often associated with bite wound infections from fights with other cats, which is a notable risk. If your cat has previously had a cat-fight abscess, you should discuss it with your vet.

Please also see here for further information from Boehringer Australia.

How is the FIV vaccine different to other vaccines?

The FIV vaccine differs from other vaccines in that its primary purpose is to prevent your cat from becoming infected with FIV, rather than merely reducing the symptoms of an existing FIV infection. This contrasts with commonly used vaccines for conditions like cat flu and canine cough, which primarily focus on symptom management. In essence, the FIV vaccine aims to prevent your cat from acquiring FIV altogether.

Can humans or other animals contract FIV from cats?

Although FIV is related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), it is not transmissible to humans or other species.

How do I know if my cat already has FIV?

Cats must be tested for FIV and must be negative to be vaccinated.

Book an appointment today for your cat to get its FIV vaccination.

Is there a cure for FIV?

There is currently no cure for FIV in cats. Once a cat is infected with FIV, the virus remains in their system for life. However, with proper management and care, many FIV-positive cats can live long and healthy lives. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms, preventing secondary infections, and maintaining a good quality of life for the cat.

Do I need to test my cat for FIV before giving them a FIV vaccination?

Please discuss this with the veterinarian during your vaccination appointment. If your cat has been in a fight or had an abscess while unvaccinated, an FIV test will likely be required.

The FIV test involves obtaining a small blood sample from your cat and conducting an in-house test, with results available on the same day.

If your cat tests positive, a second follow-up test will be done to confirm this diagnosis.

If your cat has been in a very recent fight, it is suggested that you return in 12 weeks to confirm your cat’s FIV status.