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"Feline peritonitis or feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral infection. It is contracted by cats that have a coronavirus which then triggers the FIP. The severity of symptoms depends on the strength of your cat's immune system. There is no cure for this disease with treatment focused on keeping your cat comfortable."
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral infection that is contracted due to a weakened immune system. The virus is triggered by another type of virus which weakens the immune system called a feline coronavirus (FCoV). It is believed that when your cat's body fights the coronavirus, either the immune response or something happens to the virus itself triggers the FIP. Cats with coronavirus usually do not have any symptoms.
If your cat is a carrier for coronavirus, the amount of time it takes for FIP to appear can be a little as weeks to years.
It only mutates into FIP in 5% to 10% of cats. It is also seen in kittens who are being weaned off the immunity they inherit from the mother or in cats over the age of 10. Other viruses such as FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus) can weaken the immune system which also makes cats vulnerable to catch the virus. Most cats that get the disease are between 6 months and 2 years.
The disease effects the walls of blood vessels. As the virus multiples it forms granulomas which is a term which means inflamed lesions.
Depending on the severity, feline peritonitis is either referred to as being "latent" "dry" or "wet".
Latent Feline Peritonitis: The immune system is weak enough to allow the disease to exist in your cat, but the symptoms are kept in check.
Dry (Non effusive) Feline Peritonitis: The immune system allows the disease to develop, but not advance to a chronic form.
Wet (Effusive) Feline Peritonitis: When the disease fully develops and causes fluid buildup in the body.
The virus causes inflammation in areas of the body such as the brain, kidney and abdomen. There is a vaccination for FIP, but it is not considered to be effective. Be sure to discuss this option with your veterinarian.
Symptoms of Feline Coronavirus
Cats who contract a coronavirus usually show no symptoms. When they do show symptoms they include:
- Upper respiratory problems
- Eyes that are watery
- Discharge from the nose
Additional Symptoms Associated with Feline FIP
Symptoms associated with FIP in cats include:
- Appetite loss
- Weight loss
- Hair on the coat feels rough
- Fever (that does not respond to antibiotics)
If your cat has the more advanced "wet" form of FIP then symptoms include the stomach looking like a "pot belly" due to fluid that builds up in the abdomen. This will also make it harder to breath.
Diagnosis of Feline Infectious Peritonitis
There is not a diagnostic test for FIP since just finding a Coronavirus doesn't mean that it triggered FIP. There is a test called a immunoperoxidase test which can detect some of the virus.
Treatment for Feline Infectious Peritonitis
FIP cannot be cured. Treatment might help FIP go into temporary remission using drugs such as corticosteroids (an anti inflammatory) and antibiotics. Treatment also focuses on making your cat comfortable. Unfortunately the disease causes death in most cases.
Medizinische Kleintierklinik, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, Germany