What is Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) in Cats?
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) in cats is a viral disease and often proved to be fatal in households and wild cats. Before understanding FIP in cats you need to know about Feline Corona Virus (FeCV) which gives rise Virus of Feline Infectious peritonitis (FIP). Feline coronavirus is NOT the same virus which causes COVID-19 in humans. In humans, COVID-19 is caused by the SARS Virus and FeCV is a different virus. Feline Corona Virus or FeCV is one of the common viruses in cats, about 90% of cats in catteries and 50% of household single cats get FeCV in their life. But only a fraction, approximately less than 5% of FeCV infected cats develop FIP. Most of the infected cats carry FeCV in their digestive tract or sometimes develop upper respiratory symptoms but that is not much harmful. Infected cats may develop diarrhea but that is self-curable. But sometimes FeCV after mutations can change into FIP virus.
This FIPV, a strain of FeCV, causes FIP in cats which are extremely dangerous and fatal, The disease cause maximal mortality in cats. FIP virus attacks white blood cells of the immune system. By good fortune FIP in cats is rare but as a fly in the ointment, it’s extremely fatal.
Symptoms of FIP in Cats
Symptoms of FeCV include mild diarrhea and moderate upper respiratory tract symptoms but when the virus changed into FIP it shows severe symptoms. FIP in cats has two prominent types including effusive or wet form and non-effusive or dry form. FIP in cats first shows general signs which include weight loss, cyclic fever, lethargy, and anorexia (loss of appetite).
The effusive or wet form develops more rapidly and comparatively dangerous. The distinctive sign of the wet form is an accumulation of fluid into the abdominal cavity and chest cavity. A cat will do laboured breathing due to a chest cavity filled with fluid. The excessive accumulation will lead to distention of the belly of the cat. In non-effusive or dry form cat will show non-specific symptoms and neurological signs. In dry form, different organs show granules on histopathology. So, symptoms can vary based on the organ affected. In the case of the brain, there will be neurological signs, likewise, if the liver is damaged it will show jaundice.
Sad to say that there is no specific and hundred percent sure test for the diagnosis of FIP in cats. The biggest challenge in diagnosis is that the FIP virus is a strain of Feline Coronavirus. The sign and symptoms of FIP in cats are also variable, so it mimics many other diseases. Due to these problems, it may lead to misdiagnosis. Despite some manufacturers and labs claiming to test FIP, there is no protocol to distinguish between FIP and FCV.
Some non-specific tests and markers can add something to diagnosis. Antibodies level, the Protein content of fluid, and PCR are among methods that can lead to diagnosis but always it would be hard to get accurate and authentic results. In the wet form, fluid protein test and globulins ratio can provide evidence to some extent. PCR is another method to confirm the presence of Virus but it will not distinguish between strains. In the dry form of FIP in cats, it will be more challenging to make a diagnosis. The Veterinarian can perform a biopsy and run some other tests. Research of Journal of Feline medicine and surgery describes that cats with FIP have a higher concentration of antibodies than normal cats infected with FeCV.
How to Treat Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) in Cats?
The disease is fatal and causes death in most cases. There is no universal cure for FIP in cats. In dry form, the cat may survive a bit longer but it’s fatal. The treatment of FIP in cats is a less studied topic that needs more research. The Veterinarian can go with some supportive therapies such as fluid therapy, injecting interferons, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Some antiviral drugs medicines such as GS-441524 and GS-5734 claims to cure the disease to some extent. These drugs are not FDA approved but it may be effective. Recent research describes a medicine that can be helpful to limit the spread of FeCV by fecal shedding.
Is FIP in Cats Contagious?
FIP in cats is not contagious in the sense that it is FeCV that spreads in cats. But it will be unsure that in which cat Virus can change into a fatal strain of FIP. So, Feline Corona Virus is contagious but not FIP.
Is There any Vaccine for FIP in Cats?
Cat vaccination is a scientifically proven procedure to prevent deadly infectious diseases in cats. The intranasal vaccine for FIP is available but its use is controversial. Some studies show that it provides protection and some say it provides little or no protection. The vaccine is also not recommended by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and Academy of Feline Medicine Advisory Panel on Feline Vaccines.