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Posted on 08-30-2013

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a very complex viral disease that spreads throughout a cat’s body and leads to extreme inflammation, fluid build up and organ failure. There has been awareness of FIP since the 1960s but there is still not a lot known about it. It is unclear how it is contracted, is very difficult to diagnose, there is no effective treatment and is fatal 100% of the time.

Cats of all ages can be diagnosed with FIP but purebred kittens and adolescent cats seem to be more susceptible. It is also suspected that there may be genetic predisposition involved as well. Persian, Himalayan, Birman and Balinese seem to be more predisposed.

The one concrete piece of the FIP puzzle is that the cat must first have Feline Coronavirus Infection (FCoV) to contract FIP, but having the FCoV in no way means the cat has or will have FIP. FCoV is very common and many times an infected cat will display no symptoms at all and remain healthy. Only a very small percentage of cats infected with FCoV will develop FIP. It is speculated that less than 1% of cats actually have the infection. There are higher chances of FIP in environments where larger groups of cats live together because FCoV can be easily passed back and forth creating constant infection.

It is believed that FIP is created from a mutated form of FCoV. Normal FCoV  infects the intestines and is fairly easy to diagnose and treat. FIP on the other hand attacks the immune system. Symptoms can be anything from upper respiratory infections to eye infections to diarrhea to lethargy and weight loss.

There are two types of FIP: the effusive and non effusive form. The effusive (wet) is easier to diagnose; blood vessels leak and fluid builds up in the abdomen and/or chest. This form of FIP progresses very rapidly. The non effusive (dry) is much more difficult to diagnose because tissue damage is less and more localized. This type of the disease can be much slower moving and it may take years for symptoms to develop. Both types are fatal.

There is no specific testing available for FIP because the virus does not progress the same with each case so there would be too many mutations possible to test accurately. The only testing available is clinical, where there is no definitive positive or negative result. If FIP is suspected our veterinarians would use multiple tests to rule out other diseases along with physical exams to determine whether FIP is present.

FIP is not contagious to humans or dogs. It is generally agreed that FIP is not contagious to other cats though it is unclear why. There is a vaccination available but it is controversial and the effectiveness is questionable.  There is no effective treatment although there are some experimental options. The usual recommendation for an FIP positive cat is humane euthanasia.

FIP is a very sad, complicated and confusing disease, hopefully there will be developments in the near future that help us understand it better and will lead to successful prevention and treatment.

If you have any questions regarding FIP, please contact us Eagle Animal Hospital. We serve Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore and the surrounding area.

Written by Kaelin Mast, receptionist

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