Sunday People

Will my cat have virus?

- David Grant has been a vet for more than 50 years. Email questions to him at pamperedpe­ He cannot enter into personal correspond­ence.

QAMy neighbour’s cat has recently tested positive for feline immunodefi­ciency virus. She is keeping him indoors now, but he used to play with my eight-year-old male neutered cat. Should I have him tested and is this virus a potentiall­y serious problem? Feline immunodefi­ciency virus (FIV) is in a family of viruses called retrovirus­es. It is in the lentivirus group, meaning it is generally slowly progressiv­e, and a lifelong condition.

It has some similariti­es to human immunodefi­ciency virus (HIV) but there is no transmissi­on, meaning that FIV cannot infect humans, and HIV is not infectious to cats.

FIV is mainly caught through fighting because the virus is present in high quantities in saliva and is transmitte­d through bites.

It is more common among stray unneutered males – affecting around 19 per cent of them– but much less in neutered domestic cats.

The incubation period can be lengthy – five years, in some cases, before symptoms appear.

These are non-specific, but there is often a history of various recurrent illnesses, which take longer than expected to respond to treatment.

However, some cats never display symptoms and go on to live a normal lifespan. So FIV shouldn’t be considered a death sentence.

Keeping a positive cat indoors is a sensible precaution to avoid transmissi­on to other cats or picking up infections. I think the chance of your cat testing positive is probably quite small.

But for reassuranc­e your vet can test for the virus with a blood sample at the clinic, and could do a general health check at the same time.

QI found a lump on the side of my 12-year-old dog’s neck. It’s about the size of a grape and isn’t easy to see as he has a lot of fur. I’m worried this might be cancer and also whether to put him through surgery if that is advised.

ALumps are very common in dogs, especially as they get older. The only way for your worries to be eased is with a vet consultati­on to obtain a diagnosis, and the sooner the better.

Lumps are easier to deal with if diagnosed early and not allowed to increase in size. There are various possibilit­ies that may result from your trip to the vet. They may decide, possibly after sampling with a needle, that it is just a cyst. You then have the option of having it removed or just keeping it under observatio­n.

Although owners are understand­ably worried about cancer, many skin cancers can be cured by surgery alone.

Cancers are either benign, such as lipomas from fat tissue, or malignant. Benign cancers do not spread, causing trouble only if they become too large.

Malignant cancers may spread to other parts of the body, and may be difficult to remove or recur after surgery.

To diagnose whether the lump is benign or malignant, sampling will be necessary. This is often by needle aspiration or biopsy, either before or after surgical removal and subsequent examinatio­n by a pathologis­t.

Surgery, if advised, should be relatively straightfo­rward with minimal discomfort in your dog’s case.

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