If you’re wondering what is feline infectious peritonitis you’ve come to the right place. You’ll discover everything you need to know about this disease including symptoms and causes. Fortunately, it’s quite rare, but still good to have some understanding of it.
Whether you’re a new pet parent or a cat crazy lady with fifty kitties, it’s a good idea to have some basic knowledge of feline diseases. Veterinary medicine is advancing all the time and many incurable conditions can now be treated.
What is feline infectious peritonitis
FIP is a disease caused by a virus that affects the abdomen. It’s actually a type of coronovirus but has nothing to do with covid-19. Though very rare, it mostly affects wild cats or feral colonies, and very young cats are at highest risk.
Feline infectious peritonitis is a mutation of a form of Coronovirus known as FCOV. This is only found in the feline population and is fairly common. It’s hard to tell if your cat has FCOV as many show no symptoms of the disease. However, it’s highly infectious and can be passed on to other felines.
Most cases of feline coronovirus are mild with symptoms such as mild diarrhea. However, in rare instances it can mutate into FIP, a far more serious form.
If this happens, the virus can spread throughout the body affecting different organs. These can include chest, lungs, abdomen and brain.
Inflammation is not caused by the virus itself, but the body’s fight against it. You could liken it to friendly fire from soldiers fighting a war.
Symptoms of FIP
Fluids can fill the abdomen and other areas as the virus damages blood vessels causing them to leak. You’d start to notice your cat developing a pot bellied appearance and she may have difficulty breathing if the lungs are affected. This is known as wet FIP
If the virus attacks your cat’s liver she’ll show signs of jaundice and probably suffer liver failure as it quickly spreads. In addition, lumps may also form in the abdomen. These are abscesses and by this time your poor kitty would be seriously ill.
The only fortunate thing about this awful disease is it’s not thought to be contagious, so unlikely to spread. Sadly, at this time there is no treatment and the only course of action is often euthanasia.
Do cats recover from feline infectious peritonitis?
If a cat has a very strong immune system there is a chance of recovery. Also, even with a moderately healthy immune system your cat may be able to keep the virus in check. However, this usually means some of it remains in the body.
If in future times your kitty developed an unrelated illness it’s possible the virus would be reactivated. A lowered immune system would allow it to start spreading again.
Your vet would only recommend euthanasia if there was no hope of recovery and your cat was suffering. As mentioned previously, FIP is very rare with only around 5% of affected cats with FCOV developing it.
How is FIP diagnosed?
It can be hard to diagnose but if your cat is between 4-16 months old, she’ll be around the age when it’s most common. It’s possible the litter may have been infected with FCOV and your kitty unfortunately developed the more serious version.
Blood and urine tests as well as a physical examination will be carried out to determine if your cat has this awful virus. One of the signs you or your vet would notice is a lack of growth. She may have a fever that doesn’t respond to antibiotics, and may appear lethargic.
Is there any treatment?
Officially, no treatment exists that can cure FIP, though trials have been carried out. Anti-viral drugs that show promising results are in the development stage. However, they haven’t been approved yet by the Food and Drug administration.
You may be able to get them on the black market but there’s no guarantee of their safety or effectiveness. It would be a risk that could cost your cat’s life and no veterinarian would be allowed to sell you such drugs.
It would be interesting to see how this drug develops in the future and if it really can become a life saver for felines
Is there a vaccination against the disease?
Some countries offer a vaccination but can only safely be given to kittens over 16 weeks. Sadly though, by the time a kitten reaches this age it will already have been exposed to the virus. Vaccinations can’t provide a cure, only prevention.
Can infectious peritonitis be prevented?
As FCOV is common in large colonies of cats it can be extremely hard to eradicate. Limiting the number of cats per household can help, as well as ensuring each has their own litter box.
If you love cats and want to adopt many, try not to go over five! In addition, making sure your kitties are neutered and practicing good hygiene cuts down the risk of infection.
Catteries and rescue centres should always keep cats in small groups reducing spread of infection. If you adopt a kitty from a shelter that’s a wonderful idea, but make sure the pens are clean and your chosen fur baby has been examined by a vet.
My cat was rescued from an elderly animal hoarder after he was taken ill and rushed to hospital. All animals were safe fortunately, and my cat is in good health. However not all cases like this have happy endings.
If you’re getting a cat from a breeder, make sure you ask about the kitten’s parents and check out the area they’re kept in. Any cats used in breeding that have produced litters with FCOV more than once could be passing on a gene that makes their offspring susceptible to the disease.
Breeders should be very careful and ensure good hygiene practices throughout their center. Any cats that continually produce infected kittens should be removed from a breeding program
Know you know what is feline infectious peritonitis, you have basic understanding of the disease. Thankfully it’s very rare and the chances of your kitty developing it are slim, especially once he or she is over two years old. However FIP does exist and if your kitty shows any symptoms outlined in this article it’s vital you see your vet as soon as possible.
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Wishing you a purrfect day:)