We have recently seen a number of cats at the surgery suffering from a condition called Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
Very sadly, FIP is a fatal, incurable disease that affects cats. It is caused by Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus (FIPV), which is a mutation of Feline Enteric Coronavirus (FECV) – (Feline Coronavirus FCoV).
Some aspects of FIP are poorly understood and experts do not agree on the specifics of genetic changes that produce the FIPV. The mutated virus has the ability to invade and grow in certain white blood cells, called macrophages. FECV is very common, especially in places where large groups of cats are kept together (animal shelters, catteries, etc.). Cats become infected by inhaling or swallowing the virus. The most commonly cited transmission source is faeces, although contaminated surfaces such as food dishes and clothing can transmit the virus as well.
Although FECV is common, most infected cats do not develop FIP. Often, exposure to FECV produces no signs or just mild diarrhoea. A cat without clinical signs may still be an FECV carrier and may pass the virus to another cat. In any cat infected with FECV there is a chance that the virus may mutate into the FIP causing form. This chance is increased for cats with poor immune systems such as very young and very old cats.
When the immune system responds to infection this causes an intense inflammatory reaction in the containing tissues. This disease is generally fatal.
When cats become ill with FIP, it can take one of two forms. In both form of the disease, cats can suffer from loss of appetite, fever, weight loss, jaundice, and diarrhoea In “Wet FIP”, cats become ill and fluid accumulates in the abdomen (which becomes swollen) or chest (causing breathing difficulty). In “Dry FIP” we can see problems in the eye leading to blindness and also progressive neurological problems with cats developing difficulties in standing and walking.
Sometimes medication can be used to reduce the inflammation and improve the health of the cat for some time but invariably the cat suffers a relapse had has to be put to sleep.