Many of you have probably visited the veterinarian’s office where a SNAP combo test was recommended to check for infectious diseases in your cat or kitten. You may have wondered what this test is and why it is important. These tests are usually recommended in your kitten’s first year of life, but can be done at any time if you adopt an adult cat or if your cat becomes ill.
A SNAP combo test checks for Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, which are both lifelong diseases that cause immunosuppression. They are not overly common, but it is best to diagnose these diseases early on since they are contagious and can spread to other cats in the household.
Feline Leukemia Virus is considered a “friendly cat” disease because it is most commonly transmitted through saliva when cats are grooming each other or drinking out of the same bowl. It can also be spread through bodily fluids, such as urine, or from the mother during nursing. It is most common in younger cats but can occur in any age. This virus infects the bone marrow resulting in immunosuppression and anemia. Cats infected have a higher risk of developing lymphoma and leukemia.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is equivalent to HIV in humans. It is highly contagious and is known as the “mean cat” disease since it is spread most commonly through bites. This disease is most prevalent in young, outdoor male cats. It also causes immunosuppression and predisposes those affected to secondary infections.
There are no effective treatment options for either virus, but supportive care and maintenance of good health can help improve your cat’s quality of life. Both diseases become progressively worse over time. Most FeLV-infected cats succumb to the disease within 2-3 years; however, some cats live much longer with the proper veterinary care. The prognosis for FIV-infected cats is much more guarded, and usually cats succumb to the disease just months after diagnosis.
Vaccination against at-risk cats is important to reduce the prevalence and spread. Cats that are infected should be kept separate from other cats within the household and be strictly indoors for the duration of their lives. Your veterinarian may recommended repeating this combo tested yearly or as needed for at-risk cats.