The Possible Cause for Feline Leukemia and Other Retroviral Diseases

Posted on January 23rd, 2017

FELV, FIV and FIP have all been recognized for many years and are thought to be quite contagious for all felines, but as this article continues, you may find that this may not be totally true.

Unfortunately with inbreeding, whether on purpose for structure, size, color, or due to feral cats natural instincts and as the gene pool becomes too close, simple endocrine (hormone) immune (antibody) imbalances have been produced, which can only end in tragedy if unrecognized and untreated.

This all can be avoided by doing a simple blood test, which will identify and indicate the endocrine immune imbalance that needs to be corrected.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the cause of retroviruses and their effects in a way that will help identify and treat these viral diseases, before it becomes irreversible and fatal..

For all of you that have felines and rescue felines, please be aware of the fact that if your feline has a gingival flare, this may indicate a mucous membrane antibody deficiency, which if left uncorrected, and your feline comes in contact with a retrovirus, your cat may develop FELV, FIV or FIP depending on its exposure.

If a feline has only a slight endocrine immune imbalance, the feline can be a carrier for one of these retroviruses without actually developing the disease, but can definitely spread the retrovirus.

This may be the same medical situation that allows a human HIV patient to spread that virus without actually developing AIDS.

For those feline owners that have a feline with a gingival flare, what does this actually mean?

A gingival flare is a redline that appears on the gums of the feline, where the gums reflects upon the enamel of the tooth.

This redline represents a deficiency in the mucous membrane antibody of the feline referred to, as an IgA deficiency.

This occurs because of an endocrine imbalance that allows for the production of elevated adrenal estrogen that deregulates and suppresses the immune system, which causes the B lymphocyte to reduce its production of protective antibodies.

The B-lymphocyte will not protect their system from bacterial infections and the T-lymphocyte will not protect their system from viruses.

The gingival flare is an easy way to determine if your feline may develop other disorders sooner than later in life.

The genetics of the feline may determine the impact area where the disorder will occur, which may not end up as a retroviral infection, but may end up as a chronic bladder infection, chronic skin infection, neuroma of the bottom lip, feline acne, rodent ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, allergic respiratory disease, idiopathic epilepsy, cancer etc., etc., etc..

Prior to the development of these various disorders, 70 % of the cats with this predisposed imbalance will have a visible gingival flare, which is easily seen unless the gums are heavily pigmented and then 30 % of the felines will not have a visible gingival flare.

The gingival flare occurs due to an elevated adrenal estrogen caused by a cortisol that is produced by the middle layer adrenal cortex that is either deficient, bound or defective.

This occurs due to inbreeding or can be acquired through the following;

. Environmental input

.  Vaccines

.  Anesthesia

.  Food toxins

. Damaging heavy metals


. Stress

. In adequate nutrition

. Lack of exercise

. Phytoestrogens (Plants that contain estrogen)

, Xenoestrogens (Chemicals like mimic estrogen)

. Etc.

Our animals appear to be structurally and biochemically more similar to ourselves and possibly will provide better insight then the insight that so many academic articles relate to our animals and ourselves, that are studies on mice, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits.

As mentioned before, the gingival flare or IgA imbalance comes from the inability of cortisol to fund the negative feedback to the hypothalamic-pituitary glands.

When the cortisol is not recognized by the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, because it is deficient, bound or defective, the hypothalamic pituitary glands keeps producing their hormones called CRF and ACTH, which in turn, causes the release of increased amounts of normal cortisol in a negative feedback mechanism.

As the normal cortisol creates its functions and is broken down by the liver and excreted by the kidneys, the decreased amount of normal cortisol causes the hypothalamic-pituitary axis in a negative feedback mechanism, to release its hormones and cause more release of normal cortisol

If the cortisol production is inadequate, the hypothalamic-pituitary axis will continue to release their hormones, and the inner layer adrenal cortex responds as a direct feedback mechanism, producing elevated amounts of adrenal estrogen.

What is the significance of this elevated adrenal estrogen?

. It will cause uncontrolled tissue growth

. It will make the thyroid hormones unavailable for use in the


. It will deregulate both the B and T lymphocytes so they will no

    longer protect the body against bacteria or viruses.

. It will cause both the B and T lymphocytes to lose recognition

    of self tissue, which may be the beginning of autoimmunity.

How does this now relate to FELV, FIV, FIP and other retroviruses?

  • Since the elevated adrenal estrogen deregulates the immune system, the various populations of these immune cells lose their function to protect the body against viruses.
  • The B lymphocyte will no longer protect the patient against bacteria and will also not allow the body to make protective antibodies to vaccines.
  • The T lymphocyte will no longer protect the feline from viruses, mold and fungi.

Here in lies the major problem:

If the feline with the endocrine immune imbalance and a deregulated, deficient, immune system is exposed to one or more of these retroviruses, the cat will most likely develop FELV, FIV or FIP.

The felines that do not have the endocrine immune imbalance will be able to correctly process the retrovirus without developing the disease.

This is probably the reason why retroviruses may not be contagious to all felines.

Of possible interest, is the fact that with this endocrine, immune imbalance vaccines are unable to stimulate protective antibodies, therefore vaccination of an endocrine immune compromised feline, will not create a protective antibody response and vaccinating an un compromised feline is of value and being un compromised, the feline will not develop a retrovirus any way.

Vaccinating healthy felines for retroviruses may help reduce the natural population of retroviruses and should probably be continued, unless the feline has an developed an allergic reaction to the vaccine.

If a vaccine reaction does occur, this may be further evidence that the feline has an imbalance and may be in the group that has the gingival flare or not.

A feline may test positive for a retrovirus and if its endocrine immune levels are not too imbalanced, the feline may remain a carrier of the retrovirus and never develop the actual disease.

This appears to be the same mechanism in humans with the HIV virus. And I also wonder about the various human hepatitis viruses.

In a house hold of more than one feline, and one feline is positive for a retrovirus, there needs to be a concern about   exposing the other feline or felines.

It will definitely be best to tests the other feline or felines, in order to make sure none of the felines are positive for any retroviruses.

If any of the felines are positive for a retrovirus, it would be worthwhile to identify if that feline has an endocrine immune imbalance, in order to  stop the retrovirus from developing into a disease.

The feline that tests negative is worth watching, but is usually safe from developing a retroviral disease.

As already mentioned, the feline or felines that test positive for a retrovirus can have the endocrine immune test done and corrected, in order so that their positive retroviral test does not develop into the actual retroviral disease.

Once corrected, many of these cats will tests negative

NOTE: It is assumed that once a feline is positive for a retrovirus, that feline will always remain positive for that retrovirus. In my experience, once their endocrine immune imbalance has been corrected and the t lymphocyte can once again function, many of these felines will shed the retrovirus and become negative when tested.

What is the endocrine immune blood test if it needs to be done?

The endocrine immune test is a very simple test I have designed over the past 50 years, that measures cortisol, total(adrenal) estrogen, T3, T4 and three main antibodies called immunoglobulins which are IgA, IgM and IgG. Note: many years ago I also measured IgD and IgE, and found them not to add much significance to the identification and treatment for a retroviral imbalance.

A full discussion is available at on how to do the test, how to handle the sample, and where to send the sample for proper processing.

Over the past 50 years, I have found that once properly treated, if permanent organ damage has not occurred, 85 % of the FELV patients can lead a normal life if kept on replacement hormone.

FIV and FIP patients will usually recover in 70 % of the cases.

For your consideration and edification, I will discuss three fairly typical clinical cases of felines with these three retroviral diseases.


This case involved a 6 month old feline that was showing clinical signs of FELV.

This was a neutered male kitten that had the gingival flare, was not eating and was badly dehydrated and was positive for FELV.

This was a referral and all other standard blood tests had been done to rule out other possible causes.

The endocrine immune blood test was done and the following    are the results.

TESTS RESULTS                                           NORMAL LEVELS

Cortisol = .3ug/dL                                          1 to 2.5 ug/dL

Total Estrogen = 25.13 pg/ml                      20 to 25 pg/ml

T3 = 72 ug/dL                                                  100 to 200 ug/dL

T4 = 1.2 ug/dL                                                  2 to 4.5 ug/dL

IgA = 54 ug/dL                                                  70 to 170ug/dL

IgM = 85 ug/dL                                                 100 to 200 ug/dL

IgG = 890 ug/dL                                                1000 to 2000 ug/dL


The male kitten has a elevated defective cortisol, that had caused elevated adrenal estrogen, which in turn has deregulated his B and T populations of immune cells, which will no longer protect him and has caused all his immunoglobulins to be deficient.

Any time the IgA level is below 58 ug/dL, the patient usually cannot absorb oral steroids and many other larger molecule supplements.

With any patient with a catastrophic disease, funding and identified endocrine imbalance, injectable hormones are much safer than risking malabsorption with an oral replacement hormone.

Even with a thyroid imbalance, most felines seem not to need thyroid hormone replacement, which will be indicated once the endocrine immune replacement is corrected.

If after the endocrine immune imbalance has been corrected, if the thyroid hormone is still deficient, then oral thyroid supplement needs to be done twice daily.

The only exception to this is with the treatment of a patient suffering from FIP.

All FIP patients need to begin thyroid replacement immediately.

The kitten was given a combination of two intramuscular injections of Vetalog and Depomedrol at a 10 day interval in order to replace his defective natural cortisol and at the same time reduce the total estrogen, increase his IgA and begin to restore the protection by the B and T immune cells.

The combination steroid involves giving a short acting steroid Vetalog in combination with a long acting steroid Depomedrol

The reason for doing this is because the short acting steroid will get into the patients imbalanced system immediately while the long acting steroid may take 4 to 5 days to actually work.

I do this only to begin to help the patient sooner than later.

This particular kitten went on the oral replacement cortisol 10 days after his 2nd injection and actually lived to 28 years of age and was able to shed the FELV virus.

Please also realize that the cortisol level can be very high, however if the total estrogen also is high, this indicates that the cortisol is bound or defective and definitely not recognized by the hypothalamic-pituitary axis.

I call this imbalance syndrome ACEIS, which stands for Atypical Cortisol Estrogen Imbalances syndrome. Since this terminology may be too hard to remember, the general public has referred to this imbalance as Plechner’s Syndrome, which I did not create.


This case was a 2 years old female, spayed cat that had developed FIV and was in a general, overall decline.

An endocrine immune blood test was done and the following are the test results.

TEST RESULTS                                        NORMAL LEVELS

Cortisol = .56 ug/dL                               1 to 2.5 ug/dL    

Total Estrogen = 35.21 pg/ml              30 to 35 pg/ml       

T3 = 1.20 ug/dL                                      100 to 200 ug/dl   

T4 = 2.2ug/dL                                          2 to 4.5 ug/dL   

IgA = 51 ug/dL                                         70 to 170 ug/dL

IgM = 73 ug/dL                                        100 to 200 ug/dL

IgG = 790 ug/dL                                        1000 to 2000ug/dL


Her imbalance begins with a cortisol deficiency.

With an IgA level of 51ug/dL, the feline needed 3 intramuscular injections of the combination steroids at a 10 day interval and then began oral steroids 10 days after the 3rd injection.

It is important to also remember that if the patient is better but not perfect, more than 3 injections may be indicated.

In only a small percentage of cases does the injection need to be continued, because the patient is unable to absorb oral steroids.

If this is the case, I often show the cat’s owner how to give the injections at home and normally those injections will only be needed once a month.

Fortunately the cat was in the 70 % of the FIV patients and is now fine and should live a happy, long, normal life.


This was a 2 year old male, neutered feline that was positive for FIP.

He did have the wet form of the disease that allowed for fluid buildup in his abdominal cavity.

Normally I do not suggest removing the fluid from the cat unless the fluid buildup is in the thoracic cavity and you do not have that choice.

Normally once the imbalance is corrected, the excess fluid will be absorbed.

The endocrine immune blood test was performed and the following are the results.

TEST RESULTS                                        NORMAL LEVELS

Cortisol = 4.4 ug/dL                               1 to 2.5 ug/dL

Total Estrogen = 25.16 pg/ml              20 to 25 pg/ml

T3 = 90 ug/dL                                          100 to 200 ug/dL

T4 = 1.74 ug/dL                                       2 to 4.5 ug/dL

IgA = 52 ug/dL                                         70 to 170 ug/dL        

IgM = 82 ug/dL                                        100 to 200 ug/dL   

IgG = 910 ug/dL                                         1000 to 2000 ug/dL


This particular cat is producing a bound or defective cortisol that has allowed for the elevated adrenal estrogen to cause the immune system to be deregulated and deficient.

In this case, the veterinary profession often will refer to this elevated amount of defective cortisol as an Atypical Cushing’s syndrome.

Because the adrenal estrogen is elevated it indicates that the elevation in the cortisol is bound or defective.

Often this elevated, damaged cortisol is called Cushing Syndrome, which it is not.

Cushing Syndrome deals will elevated amounts of functional cortisol, which is not the case with this feline.

Elevated, inactive or damaged cortisol is referred to as ACEIS or Plechner's Syndrome.

Of great importance is the fact that FIP patients all require a T4 supplement twice daily along with a steroid to reinitiate a normal endocrine immune imbalance.

It is recognized in humans and in canines that an elevated total estrogen, will bind the receptor sites for thyroid hormone and a thyroid supplement must be given.

This also seems true for all felines with FIP, and in this instance, this cat actually was showing a T3 and T4 deficiency.

The immune deregulation is just one more reason why the T cell system has not protected the feline from the breaking with the FIP virus.

Hopefully this article will be of value and will provide a way to help your feline that may be suffering from a retroviral disease.

These are only my thoughts and I hope they will help..


Dr. AL Plechner