FIP - The Coronavirus in Cats
FIP stands for feline infectious peritonitis.
As you would expect, this is an infection that affects cats. The most common symptom is fluid in the belly, which distends the tummy. There is no cure for this condition.
However, FIP is a very complex disease. It can come in two forms (Wet form or dry form) and it can possibly impact many different parts of a cat. Some examples include the chest, eye, or nervous system.
FIP is caused by a virus. Unlike other viruses coronavirus doesn’t always cause severe illness. Sometimes it can cause an issue as simple as diarrhea. However, if the virus mutates, this means things get serious and signs of FIP can become more apparent.
FIP Explained: Feline Infectious Peritonitis
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is caused by a virus belonging to the coronavirus group. The feline coronavirus only causes illness in cats. As previously mentioned, the severity of the illness can vary.
Exposure to coronavirus is actually a very common occurrence. Vets estimate that around 80% of show cats test positive on a blood test for exposure FIP. However, exposure and actual infection are two different matters. In healthy cats, the immune system can defend against FIP and keep the cat healthy. In cats with a weak immune system, the virus is deadly.
We Proudly Support Zen By Cat:
A nonprofit dedicated to funding FIP research.
The founder, Peter, learned first-hand about the devastation of FIP after losing a precious adopted kitten named Miss Bean. There is nothing worse than seeing an innocent animal suffer.
We believe in hope, we root for life. We believe in the sweet moment of connection between a human and their furry companion.
How Do Cats Get FIP
Transmission of FIP occurs when a healthy cat comes in direct contact with a cat who is infected, or thier stool. Although Coronavirus thrives in fecal matter, it is possible to contract the virus in other ways. Coronavirus can live for unto three weeks on toys, bowls, littler, and other hard surfaces, assuming the room is at an average temperature.
However, when coronavirus is in feces it can live on for about seven weeks. This is why it is critical for cat owners to ensure litter boxes are cleaned daily. This is especially true for households with multiple cats.
Cats become infected when they come into contact with coronavirus very easily. A common scenario is a cat using a litter box being shared with a cat with diarrhea. The cat may get the virus on their paws via the fecal matter. When that cat grooms, they then take the virus internally. It will then pass along the gut and out in the feces.
This is an example of the virus ‘passing’ through a cat. The more times the virus passages, the more chance it gets to mutate.
Do Dogs Get FIP ?
A member of the coronavirus family, the canine coronavirus, does infect dogs. However, canine coronavirus does not cause serious disease. Generally speaking, it only causes mild diarrhea.
A different strain of the virus can cause illness impacting the respiratory tract. This is one way dogs can get kennel cough.
Again, ensuring your keep litter boxes clean helps protect your cats and dogs alike.
FIP Symptoms in Cats
Generally speaking FIP is considered a disease of younger cats. This is especially true for cats who are under two years of age. However, there is another group of cats, aged 11 years or over that also seem to have a greater risk.
The wet form of the virus allows fluids to leak out of blood vessels. Other symptoms include breathing difficulties, due to fluid in the chest which compresses the lungs. Anemia and sometimes even jaundice are present as well..
The symptoms of dry FIP, once again are vague, but include:
- Tremors and shaking
- Wobbling while walking or standing
- General poor coordination
- Eyes flickering from side to side rapidly
- Inflammation of the eyes
- Jaundice or yellowing of the mucous membranes.
FIP Research and Treatment
Sadly, there is no cure for this terrible virus. The cat’s own immune system becomes overstimulated as a result of the virus, which in turn causes some of the symptoms.
Treatment is therefore aimed at switching off this cell-mediated immunity. The thought process is if it is possible, the virus does less damage. Drugs such as the corticosteroid prednisone are commonly used effectively. Steroids need to be given at high, immunosuppressive doses in order to be effective. These drugs are not a cute, but rather a suppressant.
Another option for treatment is Virbagen Omega. This is a form of interferon, which has immune-modulating effects. Like prednisone, this does not cure the condition but it can extend life.
Life Expectancy for cats with FIP
Cats can be expected to live from 5 to 12 weeks if infected with the “wet” form of the virus. Those infected with the “dry” form may live significantly longer, though it likely will still prove fatal. This is why we are so passionate about FIP research. We can all make a difference in the lives of our furry friends if we help support organizations like Zen By Cat.
Help Stop FIP
Unfortunately there is very little a human can do to stop this horrible disease, most kittens do not survive! We can however work together towards finding a cure but supporting amazing non profit organizations like Zen by Cat. Click here to learn more about how you can help!