What Is FIP in Cats?
FIP, or feline infectious peritonitis, is a viral disease that can affect cats of any age. It's a life-threatening illness because it compromises the immune system and causes inflammation and organ damage. Despite its rarity, feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) can have a devastating effect on both cats and their owners. There is currently no FDA approved cure for FIP; Even though a treatment for FIP has been developed, the company responsible for developing it is unwilling to submit it to the FDA for approval due to legal procedures.
What Are Signs of FIP in Cats?
Cats with Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) at first may show only subtle symptoms, making the disease challenging to diagnose.Some cats may show mild upper respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal discharge, while others may experience mild gastrointestinal signs such as diarrhea. In most cases, these mild signs are self-limiting. Only a small percentage of cats that are exposed to the FeCV develop FIP, and this can occur weeks, months, or even years after initial exposure to FeCV.
If ignored, FIP can spread to the brain, resulting in neurological symptoms including seizures or even blindness if it affects the eyes.
What Causes Fip in Cats?
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral disease of cats caused by certain strains of a virus called the feline coronavirus. Most strains of feline coronavirus are found in the gastrointestinal tract and do not cause significant disease. These are referred to as feline enteric coronavirus (FeCV).
Cats infected with FeCV usually do not show any symptoms during the initial viral infection, but may occasionally experience brief bouts of diarrhea and/or mild upper respiratory signs from which they recover spontaneously. FeCV-infected cats usually mount an immune response through which antibodies against the virus are produced within 7-10 days of infection.
How Common Is FIP in Cats?
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a rare but serious disease caused by a mutation of the FeCV virus in about 10% of infected cats. The virus attacks white blood cells and can spread throughout the body, causing inflammation and affecting organs such as the abdomen, kidney, or brain. FIP is the result of the immune system's response to the virus.
How Is FIP Transmitted?
FIP is primarily transmitted through the nose when a cat is exposed to Feline Coronavirus (FCoV). Within a week of getting sick, cats can pass the virus in their poop. At the beginning of the infection, the virus can be found in saliva, mucus from the nose and throat, and urine.
Cats who live with other cats are more likely to get sick because the virus can spread easily through shared litter boxes and close contact. The virus can also spread through grooming, eating from the same bowl, and rarely, through droplets from a sneeze. While lice and fleas are unlikely to spread the disease, an infected cat's contaminated litter box can play a major role in the virus's ability to spread and stay around.
Can Indoor Cats Get FIP?
Yes, indoor cats can get FIP. While outdoor cats are more likely to develop FCoV, even indoor cats are at danger if they regularly interact with other felines. A clean litter box and regular hygiene practices can cut down on the spread of FCoV, but there is no guaranteed way to prevent infection. While FCoV is pretty weak and can be killed by most household cleaners and disinfectants, it can survive for up to 7 weeks outside the cat in cold or dry conditions, like in carpet. If you suspect your cat may have been exposed to FCoV, it's important to monitor them closely for any signs of illness and seek veterinary care if necessary.
What to Do If I Suspect My Cat Has FIP
If you suspect your cat may be showing signs of FIP, seek veterinary care immediately. Early detection and supportive care can help prolong your cat's life and manage their symptoms. FIP is a complex disease that is difficult to diagnose and treat.