If your cat's battling FIV, or feline immunodeficiency virus, you want to help him in any way you can. While he can't be cured, the right treatment might keep him symptom-free for a long time. Interferon therapy could keep Fluffy relatively healthy and around longer.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
FIV is the feline version of the human immunodeficiency virus responsible for AIDS. FIV destroys your cat's T-lymphocytes, the white blood cells protecting his immune system. As his immune system wanes, all kinds of opportunistic infections that a healthy cat's system could overcome take their toll. Eventually, the cat succumbs from infections, cancer, anemia or other diseases. Cats usually contract the virus through bite wounds, so tomcats fighting outdoors are at especially high risk. Infected mothers can pass it on to nursing kittens.
Interferon are cytokines. As described by Veterinary Partner.com, this means they are "biochemicals secreted by cells of the immune system to regulate other cells of the immune system." In some FIV-positive cats, interferon might reduce the virus' ability to replicate. It doesn't work in every cat treated with the drug, but there's always a chance it could work with your pet. Certain cats treated with interferon become more active, eat better and live longer. It might also improve your cat's red and white blood cells counts. Cats receive interferon orally, with the drug mixed in a saline solution. You can also mix it in his food.
Low dose administration of interferon, as given to cats with FIV, generally incurs no side effects. Not only is it very safe for your immune-compromised kitty, but it doesn't interfere with other medications he might require, such as antibiotics and drugs to combat viruses. You can rest assured that even if interferon doesn't help your cat, it isn't going to hurt him. However, because cats soon develop antibodies to interferon, you can't give him the drug for much more than seven weeks.
If interferon doesn't work for Fluffy, don't despair. Certain drugs called immunomodulators can aid his immune system. Azothiouridine, known as AZT, has proven beneficial in human AIDS patients and also helps felines. If you can afford it and your vet gives the go-ahead, a bone marrow transplant might your improve your cat's neutrophil level, a type of white blood cell that fights inflammation. However, even after the surgery your cat still has FIV.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- Wedgewood Pet Pharmacy: Interferon Alpha-2B for Veterinary Use
- Veterinary Partner: Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
- National Center for Biotechnology: Therapeutic Effects of Recombinant Feline Interferon-omega on Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)-infected and FeLV/feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)-coinfected Symptomatic Cats
- Veterinary Partner: Interferon (Roferon, Intron A, Alferon N)
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.