FIP: Feline Infectious Peritonitis
Feline Infectious Peritonitis often affects the lining of the chest and/or abdomen. It has been recognized since the 1960's and is much more complex than many of the other cat diseases. It is currently thought that FIP is the second biggest killer of cats, second only to Feline Leukemia.
FIP is caused by a feline coronavirus; coronaviruses of various species exist in most types of animals and humans and usually cause acute respiratory or enteric disease. FIP is the cause of death of 1 in 100 cats seen at veterinary teaching hospitals throughout the U.S. The incidence can be 5 to 10 times greater among young cats coming from catteries and shelters and is the major cause of abdominal fluid (ascites) and intraocular and neurologic inflammatory disease in cats under 3-5 years of age. FIP is virtually 100% fatal and there is no good prevention. The emotional toll of FIP is especially great, because it strikes suddenly weeks, months and even years after initial infection. Therefore, cat lovers usually experience this disease long after they have developed strong emotional bonds with their new pet.
CORONAVIRUS: Coronavirus is ubiquitous among cats and infection with the virus is particularly common where large numbers of cats are kept together. It is estimated that 25 to 40 per cent of household pet cats are infected. This infection rate increases to 80 to 100 per cent of cats kept in multi-cat households, rescue and breeding colonies. The virus is spread by the faecal-oral route, that is, the virus is shed in feces into the environment and cats become infected following ingestion when grooming or eating. Most infected cats shed the virus in feces for a variable period of time and then stop. The cat can then become re-infected from another cat and start shedding virus again. In contrast, some cats shed virus continuously.
Although coronavirus is the cause of FIP, infection with coronavirus does not mean that the cat will go on to develop FIP. In comparison to the number of cats infected with the virus, the number that develop FIP is very small. It is only when the virus mutates that FIP may develop.
SYMPTOMS OF FIP: Since many different organs can be involved with the dry form, the symptoms we see with this form of FIP can mimic other common diseases of cats, like hyperthyroidism, liver disease, sugar diabetes and kidney disease.
HOW TO DIAGNOSE FIP: There is no specific diagnostic test for FIP. Tissue biopsies can confirm a diagnosis, but often the cat is too sick for these procedures to be undertaken and so in many cases a definitive test is only made on post mortem examination.