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Thread: When to retest FeLV+ exposed kittens?

  1. #1

    When to retest FeLV+ exposed kittens?

    I rescued a mom from our city pound in February. At the time she had three kittens, all of whom appeared to be a couple of hours old. I snap tested her (ELISA), and she was a faint positive for feline leukemia. We left the babies with her, since we didn't have anywhere else to bottle feed.

    When the babies were about 5-6 weeks old, we retested mom and the babies. Mom now tested as a strong FeLV+ on the snap test. We did an IFA test, and mom tested negative. We suspect the mom got FeLV from sex with the kittens' dad, and so it has not yet him her bone marrow and is not showing on the IFA. This might also be good for the kittens, since it might mean that they weren't as exposed in utero.

    We tested each of the three babies, and they all were negative for FeLV on snap tests. After that, we separated mom and babies so that they would stop nursing and have a better chance at not contracting FeLV (if they haven't already), and of converting to negative in case they already have contracted it.

    My question is, when should I retest the babies? I know that even though they tested negative, they were nursing up to that date. How long do I have to wait to be sure they have not contracted FeLV? I have read all over, and there doesn't seem to be a consistent answer. They were last with their mother on April 7. They seem very healthy-- no URI, good poop, healthy weight, good eaters, and tons of energy.

    Thank you!

  2. #2
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    I have a lot of experience with FeLV+ cats. If you separate them from the mother, they'll stay negative. If they are negative on the ELISA they will be negative on the other test. The best results may be obtained at 3 months of age. Good luck! I had a litter of positive kittens. In spite of constant exposure to one another, one of the kittens threw off the virus and tested negative. This is really rare.
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  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by smokey the elder View Post
    I have a lot of experience with FeLV+ cats. If you separate them from the mother, they'll stay negative. If they are negative on the ELISA they will be negative on the other test. The best results may be obtained at 3 months of age. Good luck! I had a litter of positive kittens. In spite of constant exposure to one another, one of the kittens threw off the virus and tested negative. This is really rare.
    But there is an incubation period. So even though they were negative in early April, they were exposed to mom up until then and nursing, so how long is the incubation period?

  4. #4
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    I know with FIV, you wait until the kitten is age 6 months to get a true reading on the test. I haven't had to cope with FeLV, so I don't have info on that.

    What does your vet recommend?
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  5. #5
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    When we've had potential accidental exposure in our shelter, the vet recommends 3 months.
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  6. #6
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    Retest at or after 6 months of age. I actually called the manufacturer of these at my previous clinic for this same scenario and that's what they told me. Ideally you'd test around 6-8 weeks (better for closer to 10-16) and retest again around 6-8 months.

    A kitten that young can falsely test positive for it because of their mother's antibodies, or if they've been recently vaccinated for FeLV.

    If the test is negative, I STRONGLY recommend you vaccinate them for FeLV and separate them from their mama as soon as possible.

    When in doubt, however, always ask your vet. Each clinic may have different protocol when it comes to these types of cases.

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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Jessika View Post
    Retest at or after 6 months of age. I actually called the manufacturer of these at my previous clinic for this same scenario and that's what they told me. Ideally you'd test around 6-8 weeks (better for closer to 10-16) and retest again around 6-8 months.

    A kitten that young can falsely test positive for it because of their mother's antibodies, or if they've been recently vaccinated for FeLV.

    If the test is negative, I STRONGLY recommend you vaccinate them for FeLV and separate them from their mama as soon as possible.

    When in doubt, however, always ask your vet. Each clinic may have different protocol when it comes to these types of cases.
    I already tested them at 6 weeks, and they were negative. I immediately separated them from their mom. All the studies say not to vaccinate if already exposed since it won't have an effect and could cause sarcoma. I guess the question is when can I retest and know a negative is accurate? I know if positive to keep testing until 6 months. But how long after exposure can I be sure they are actually negative?

    The one reply above says 3 months. That seems like it's probably right. Poor babies

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    As I said, I called the manufacturer of the SNAP tests and they recommended retesting again at or after 6 months of age.

    Vaccinating is up to you and your vet. I personally have never seen a vaccine site sarcoma in any pet in all my years of being a tech. Felines are still at a higher risk, no argument; however, vaccines nowadays are being formulated to be much much safer and with a much much MUCH lower rate of sarcomas. For example, it is no longer recommended to use the 3y rabies vaccine in felines but the 1y nonadjuvanted one manufactured by Merial.

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