Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a highly contagious and serious viral disease in cats caused by the feline coronavirus (FCoV). It’s one of the most common causes of death in cats and can cause severe gastrointestinal, respiratory, neurologic, and ocular signs. FIP is seen more commonly in young cats between 1-3 years of age, but cats of any age can be affected.
The virus is spread through contact with infected cats or their secretions, such as urine and feces. FIP can also be passed on to other animals in the environment, such as housemates and outdoor cats. Vaccines are available for FIP but they don’t provide complete protection against the disease.
Symptoms of Feline Infectious Peritonitis
Symptoms of Feline Infectious Peritonitis can vary depending on the type of virus and strain. Common symptoms include:
- Appetite loss
- Weight loss
- Jaundice (yellowing of their skin and eyes)
- Pale gums
- Abdominal pain and distention
Other signs can include neurological changes such as seizures or behavior changes.
Diagnosing Feline Infectious Peritonitis
Feline Infectious Peritonitis can be difficult to diagnose. Tests that can be used to help confirm the diagnosis include complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and specific antibody testing. Additional tests such as radiographs or ultrasound can also be used to look for inflammatory changes in their abdominal cavity or pleural effusion.
Stages of Feline Infectious Peritonitis
Feline Infectious Peritonitis has two distinct stages: the Wet Stage and the Dry Stage.
The wet stage is associated with fluid accumulation in their body, such as their abdomen or chest, and is often accompanied by fever, anorexia, and lethargy.
In the dry stage, inflammation and organ fibrosis can occur and cause signs of organ dysfunction. Symptoms of the dry stage can include neurologic abnormalities, weight loss, behavior changes, and difficulty breathing.
Treating Feline Infectious Peritonitis
Treating Feline Infectious Peritonitis can be tricky and there is no cure. Treatment is aimed at managing signs and symptoms and giving supportive care. Common treatments include antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, fluid therapy, nutrition support, and pain relief. In some cases, surgery can be necessary to remove fluid from their abdomen or chest. In advanced cases of FIP, euthanasia may be recommended.
Preventing Feline Infectious Peritonitis
The best way to prevent Feline Infectious Peritonitis is to have all cats in your household vaccinated against FCoV. It’s also important to practice good hygiene by thoroughly cleaning litter boxes and removing feces daily. Avoid contact with other cats, especially those that could be ill or living in overcrowded conditions. Finally, keep your cat indoors to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus.