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How is FIV affect dental health in cats?

Cat FIV and dental disease

In the latest article about Feline Chronic Gingivostomatitis (FCGS), it mentioned the link between FIV and dental diseases in cats in a simple way. This time we would have further explanation about that.

What is FIV?

For easily understanding, you should have a basic concept of FIV first. Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is one of the most common and consequential infectious diseases in cats. In infected cases, FIV attacks the immune system, leaving the cat vulnerable to many other infections. Although cats infected with FIV may appear normal for years, they eventually suffer from immune deficiency, which allows normally harmless bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi found in the everyday environment to potentially cause severe illnesses.

FIV-positive cats may have the virus in their system for years before showing signs of illness.

Why FIV leads to increased incidence of dental disease in cats?

As the virus works by killing or damaging cells in a cat’s immune system, often targeting white blood cells. The ongoing damage of FIV in cats eventually leads to a weakening of the immune system. Once that happens, cats with FIV can become vulnerable to secondary infections.

One of the most common secondary infection is feline Gingivostomatitis. When FIV-positive cats encountering plaque and oral bacteria, their immune system’s inflammatory response is so abnormal in those cats that their bodies just aren’t up to dealing with routine oral infections. The infected cats will then develop symptoms of oral inflammation due to insufficient immune resistance.

According to medical studies, FIV-positive cats had significantly more often gingivae with an increased tendency for bleeding upon probing than FIV-negative cats, and increase the chance of getting FCGS. Plus, it has been shown that FIV infection is an important factor for the occurrence of tooth resorption, possibly through immune suppression or changes of the (sub)gingival micro-environment.

Can FIV be prevented?


The primary mode of transmission for FIV is through bite wounds from an infected cat. That makes outdoor cats especially vulnerable as they may end up in a territorial dispute that leads to such an injury.

So the best way to reduce risk is to limit contact with cats who may be infected with the disease by keeping cats indoors and testing all cats within the household. And also you could consider to neuter cat to reduce territorial behaviour.

While FIV is contagious, cats typically do not transmit the virus by sharing an eating bowl with other cats or through other casual, non-aggressive contact, such as sharing water bowls or mutual grooming.

Risk for human?

Absolutely NOT! A cat can’t transmit the FIV virus to a human. They can only pass FIV on to another cat. Although HIV (human immunodeficiency virus, the cause of AIDS in people) belongs to the same family of viruses as FIV, the two viruses infect different species. The viruses are very specific for the species and there is no risk of cross infection between the immunodeficiency viruses of cats and people.

How to treat FIV?

There is no antiviral remedy available specifically for the treatment of FIV in cats. In general, vets would focus on trying to keep a cat asymptomatic for an extended period. As previous mention, FIV-positive cats may have a long period where they can appear healthy and show no clinical signs. Therefore, regular examinations to monitor immune status is very important, it does help in detecting the disease at the initial stage. Any infections should be treated promptly and aggressively. Earlier treatment will bring the benefits of shorter and better recovery.

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