Cat FIP, also known as feline infectious peritonitis, is a virus which is usually fatal in cats. It is a systemic virus which is caused by the coronavirus, clinically known as feline coronavirus, or FcoV. FIP is known to affect domestic cats as well as wild cats, such as cougars, lions and cheetahs.
Causes of FIP
There are two types of coronavirus which lead to FIP: avirulent or virulent.
When the coronavirus is avirulent, also known as feline enteric coronavirus, it means that the virus is not actually alive and active in your cat's system. Your cat is merely a carrier. Because this strain of virus is relatively mild, you will probably see little to no signs of active infection in your cat.
However, when the strain is virulent, also known as feline infectious peritonitis, the virus is live and your cat becomes actively infected. The mutation of cells from an avirulent situation is what leads to a virulent situation; yet the cause of the mutation is unknown.
Many cats are unknowingly affected with the feline enteric coronavirus strain, but the conversion to FIP is rare. The conversion only occurs in roughly 1% of all diagnosed cases.
Transmission of FIP
Transmission of FIP occurs between cats through direct contact of saliva or feces. Any time there is sharing of the litter box, bedding or food and water bowels, the rate of transmission of feline infectious peritonitis increases.
Symptoms of FIP
The symptoms of FIP can go unnoticed for so long because they do not usually present until the disease is very far progressed. When your cat is avirulent, you will likely not see anything more than some slight diarrhea. However, as the cells begin to mutate and reproduce, leading to the onset of FIP, symptoms can become more pronounced. Symptoms can include:
- Loss of weight
- Loss of interest in grooming and dull hair appearance
- Runny nose
Diagnosis of FIP
There are a few variations of tests available to lead to an accurate diagnosis of FIP. One of the tests is known as the FIP test. However, the importent thing to remember with this test is that it cannot decipher between an avirulent and virulent infection. If the test comes back positive, it does not necessarily mean that your cat has the live version of FIP. With the combination of accompanied symptoms, a more firm diagnosis can be made.
A complete blood count can also be done to help support the conclusion of FIP. The blood test will check the white blood cell count of your cat. White blood cells increase in production to fight infection when it is present, so it stands to reason that the white blood cell count will be higher with a virulent case of FIP.
The only sure way to diagnose FIP is to the have the infected tissue biopsied. It can be difficult to biopsy a tissue that you are unaware of being affected.
Treatment and Prognosis of FIP
There is no treatment available that will cure FIP. The only substantial treatment method is caring for your cat. The infection will eventually end the life of your cat; there is no way to stop that. However, the use of antibiotics and corticosteroids can help to relieve any secondary infection or the symptomatic pain associated with this disease.
Usually when FIP has been recognized, the disease is much too far gone. The prognosis for life after diagnosis can range anywhere from a few days to a year. However, most cats will die within a few weeks.