Holistic Treatments for FIV Positive Cats

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FIV is is an often misunderstood condition. According to the Feline Health Center at Cornell University, the virus affects approximately 1.5 to 3 percent of healthy cats in the United States, with slightly higher rates in cats that are sick or at high risk for infection. FIV is a lentivirus, which means it moves very slowly, and it gradually affects a cat’s immune system. It is passed from cat to cat through blood transfusions and serious, penetrating bite wounds. FIV cannot be transmitted to humans.

One of the longstanding myths about FIV is that cats who are FIV positive can’t live long, healthy lives. Nothing could be more wrong. Many cats with FIV live well into their teens if they are receiving proper care and monitoring throughout their lives. My former office cat, Virginia, lived to be 14, despite her FIV positive status.

Since the FIV virus attacks the cat’s immune system, immune support is one of the most important aspects of caring for FIV positive cats. In many ways, FIV+ cats need to be treated like humans with compromised immune systems.

Reduce Stress

Stress causes illness in cats and humans, and while it may seem that there isn’t much that could stress out spoiled housecats, it actually doesn’t take much for cats to get stressed. most cats like their familiar routines, so anything out of the ordinary, whether it’s another new cat, a move, home remodeling, or even a change in the position of household furnishings, can cause them to feel stressed.

In addition to changes in the environment, your stress can also have a negative impact on your cat, to the point of making her ill.

Support your cat’s immune system

Keeping your cat’s immune system strong requires a multipronged approach, and includes the following:

  • Feed a species appropriate, minimally processed diet grain-free canned or homecooked diet. Raw diets are not recommended for FIV+ cats.
  • Add quality supplements to boost the immune system, such as probiotics, digestive enzymes, and anti-oxidants.
  • Minimize vaccinations.
  • Don’t use chemical flea and tick prevention products.
  • Limit exposure to toxic chemicals in your cat’s environment.
  • Avoid overuse of steroids and/or antibiotics.
  • Reiki and other energy therapies can help reduce stress and strengthen the immune system.

Homeopathy and herbal remedies

Homeopathic remedies and herbal supplements can help strengthen the immune system. Please use these remedies under the guidance of a trained veterinary homeopath or herbalist.

Regular veterinary exams

FIV+ cats should receive veterinary check ups at least twice a year, regardless of their age. In between exams, it’s important that cats are monitored closely for even subtle signs of illness. Symptoms such as loss of appetite, weight loss, poor hair coat, diarrhea, or vomiting require immediate veterinary attention.

Even though FIV is a serious condition, it is by no means a death sentence. Holistic treatments, when used in conjunction with regular veterinary care, can help keep your FIV+ cat happy and healthy for many years.

 

25 Comments on Holistic Treatments for FIV Positive Cats

  1. Sue Lamothe
    August 14, 2017 at 6:24 pm (8 months ago)

    Any thoughts on Lysine to strengthen their immune system? Have you found any brands better than others? Thank you

    Reply
  2. Jasper
    August 11, 2017 at 5:17 pm (8 months ago)

    My feral who was just neutered tested positive for hiv..he is not ready to be handled but h ants around all day. I want to give him a good supplement any suggestions

    Reply
  3. VS
    April 1, 2015 at 5:50 pm (3 years ago)

    I believe a raw meat and bone diet IS recommended, highly, for all cats, and especially those with compromised immune systems. Please investigate this further. Diet, and crunching through raw meaty bones such as chicken necks, can make all the difference in dental health as well.

    Reply
    • Fran
      July 12, 2015 at 8:19 pm (3 years ago)

      Actually FIV pets can become very ill from raw diets. Raw meat is frequently contaminated with bacteria, viruses, and parasite eggs that would not harm a healthy animal or human because their immune systems are capable of overcoming those things, but can be devastating to the health of a immune compromised pet. The raw diet may seem a way to improve health but if the animal is already very ill it can be their death sentence.

      Reply
    • jodi
      August 23, 2016 at 4:32 pm (2 years ago)

      My cat developed a bacterial infection after I tried raw food. It’s not for every cat, even though he loved eating it.

      Reply
      • Angie
        November 30, 2016 at 9:32 pm (1 year ago)

        We just found out our kitty has FIV. He’s always been outside but he’s now inside and recovering. My vet said no raw meat or raw eggs because of bacteria.

        Reply
  4. Kitty Cat Chronicles
    July 13, 2014 at 6:17 pm (4 years ago)

    Great article! One of my cats, Sassy, is FIV+. I knew nothing about the virus until I rescued Sassy as a stray and she tested positive. I am always happy to find encouraging and helpful articles like this one!

    Reply
  5. ACE
    June 18, 2014 at 3:53 pm (4 years ago)

    PS– yes disinfecting the bottom of your shoes before you walk in the door would be great for ANY household. I keep a spray bottle filled with 1/2 water and 1/2 NON FLAVORED mouthwash. I spray the bottoms of my shoes and the hem of my dark pants with it, then take my shoes off, as my slippers are right by the front door.
    I ALSO carry one of those pen-sized hand sanitizers and a small pack of Kleenexes if I need to spray things — when the contents are gone, I add undiluted non flavored mouthwash to the “pen” — you can get these “pens” at Home Depot and I am sure at other places too, maybe CVS.

    Reply
  6. ACE
    June 18, 2014 at 3:49 pm (4 years ago)

    Thank you for this information!!
    In his book “Love, Healing and Animal Miracles” Dr Bernie Schoen DVM also recommends Ginseng and Royal Jelly. Further questions on my part would include –
    What kind of Ginseng — Korean Ginseng? White Ginseng? or Siberian Ginseng (now renamed Eleuthero)”
    Maybe someone can get to the bottom of this, as it was working with one woman — working so well that she took her cat off the regimen…. to the cat’s misfortune……

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 18, 2014 at 4:01 pm (4 years ago)

      That’s interesting about the Ginseng. I would recommend working with a veterinary herbalist before giving this, or any other herbal remedy.

      Reply
      • ACE
        June 18, 2014 at 4:06 pm (4 years ago)

        And thank God there are now many of these wonderful DVM’s to consult with. My first vet used to laugh at me for my holistic modalities. Since being laughed at was not one of my priorities for taking my cats to the vet, the vet I switched over to – although not holistic — was curious, and asked me for information so she could acquaint herself with this.

        Reply
  7. Eastside Cats
    June 17, 2014 at 3:51 pm (4 years ago)

    Last week, I had to euthanize one of my ferals with bad teeth, who turned out to be FIV positive. Chances are that the other two ferals are too. Best I can do it try to monitor their health as closely as I can, and I’ve learned a lot from this article and the comments. Sammy was an older cat, and he avoided my traps for years, otherwise I might have gotten him help earlier. I am sad at his passing, but now I have more information to use for the future.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 17, 2014 at 4:40 pm (4 years ago)

      I’m so sorry about your feral cat. Thanks for all you do for them!

      Reply
    • Monica
      March 5, 2015 at 2:42 pm (3 years ago)

      hi,

      My cat is FIV positive, and I would like some tips on feeding..as his teeth is really bad. I would appreciate as you have experience,thanks

      Reply
      • Clare Ellwood
        March 8, 2017 at 10:57 am (1 year ago)

        Hi my stray, now home boy, is undergoing his second extensive dental extractions due to bacterial infection. The vet examined Smudge this morning and it looks like he will have to remove all of them. Smudges immune system is poor at the moment, in 70% partial removal will help to eliminate the infection. Smudge is in the 30% where total extraction has to be done. The vet mentioned probiotic support will help him as it boosts the immune system.

        Reply
  8. Sue Brandes
    June 16, 2014 at 1:20 pm (4 years ago)

    Thanks for the post Ingrid. Good to know. I have never had an FIV cat but; I know many who do and they live long and happy lives.

    Reply
  9. Michelle S
    June 16, 2014 at 12:05 pm (4 years ago)

    Having had 5 FIV+ cats (down to one now) over the past 11 years, I would add the following to the list.

    * Invest in a baby scale and regularly record weights monthly or even weekly if the cat is a senior, has been symptomatic, or is a new addition to the family. It’s often difficult to notice weight changes until a significant amount of weight has been lost.
    * Along with regular checkups, have regular blood work drawn. It’s much easier to treat something when you catch it early.
    * Regular dental exams are also a must. All of my FIV+ boys have had dental issues, and while one boy’s mouth looked just fine during his physical exam, a full dental exam under anesthesia ended with full mouth extractions. There was absolutely no sign of dental disease with just a visual inspection, and zero odor.
    * Unless it’s an emergency or the cat is sick, schedule the first appointment of the day on the slowest day of the week. Not only will it be less stressful for the cat (not having to wait, less noise, etc.), you significantly lower your chances of exposing your cat to airborne diseases brought in by other cats. Additionally, the clinic has been recently disinfected.
    * Make certain that your clinic disinfects all surfaces from exam tables to scales, and even sitting areas.
    * Disinfect the bottom of your shoes before entering your home. Cats may be in carriers at the Vet, but their people can very easily carry something in on their shoes if they have a sick cat at home.
    * Trust your instincts! You know your cat better than anybody, and if he/she just seems “off”, get it checked out ASAP.

    My guy lost 8 ounces, and while 1/2 a pound may not seem like much to us, it is to them. I requested a full exam with blood work, and it turned out that he has a liver issue. It’s currently mild and we caught it early, but things could have literally turned deadly if I had waited to take him in. We don’t know how this will turn out for my boy, but I do know that he has the best possible chance because it was detected in its early stages.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 16, 2014 at 12:19 pm (4 years ago)

      Great suggestions, thanks, Michelle! All my best to your guy!

      Reply
  10. Rev. Joe Futterer
    June 16, 2014 at 11:59 am (4 years ago)

    Ingrid, A great immune system stimulator is Colostrum. Powered version on wet food is excellent. My cat loves the pineapple flavored chewable tablets, go figure.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 16, 2014 at 1:14 pm (4 years ago)

      Pineapple flavored, huh? Go figure!

      Reply
  11. Glogirly and Katie
    June 16, 2014 at 11:38 am (4 years ago)

    This is such good information to know and share…
    Until recently, when I wrote about a kitty momma with FIV at the rescue I work with, I really didn’t understand FIV myself. Your tips for supporting their immune system are so simple. Thank you for this. I finally feel like I can talk to friends with questions and concerns about this in an informed and intelligent way.
    : )

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 16, 2014 at 12:18 pm (4 years ago)

      I’m so glad this article helped, Debbie.

      Reply
  12. Suellen
    June 16, 2014 at 9:28 am (4 years ago)

    I use homeopathy almost exclusively with all my adult cats (thankfully non FIV positive) as well as my foster kittens. I have been trained in classical human homeopathy and thankfully it is not that much different for animals – except animals cannot tell you symptoms. Homeopathy is pretty intuitive and I find it works extremely well. I also use mushroom extracts but caution to use under the supervision of a trained naturopathic holistic veterinarian.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 16, 2014 at 12:18 pm (4 years ago)

      I think homeopathy is a powerful modality – in the hands of a trained practitioner. I agree that between your training in human homeopathy, and using your intuition, it is possible to extrapolate to using it for animals. My concern, and the reason for my caution, is that there are too many remedies sold as “homeopathic” online that have nothing or very little to do with homeopathy, and I’d like people to steer clear of those.

      I’ve heard good things about using mushroom extracts to stimulate the immune system, but like you said, they also need to be used with the guidance of a trained holistic veterinarian.

      Reply

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