Diagnosing Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is an incurable medical condition caused by a coronavirus (FCoV). Peritonitis is contagious; unvaccinated kittens and elderly cats or cats with a deficient immune system are more susceptible to it. The FIP vaccine can be administered, but cannot guarantee immunity to the virus.

Signs of FIP

Feline infectious peritonitis can manifest itself in two different ways, depending on the type of FIP:

  • Dry or non-effusive, occurs in 2 or 3 cases out of 10
  • Wet or effusive, more frequent in felines

The wet or effusive form of FIP will be signaled by fever, lack of appetite and weight loss, inactivity, depression, anemia and discolored gums, diarrhea or constipation, behavioral changes and a pot belly appearance.

This type of FIP will be accompanied by liquid retention and accumulation in different parts of the body, especially vital organs. The cat may have breathing problems due to fluid in the lung area, or elimination problems due to fluid retention in the kidney area. The cat might have granulomas, and if these are located in the head or affect the nervous system, the cat can experience confusion, seizures, lack of balance and even paralysis.

The dry form of FIP will have symptoms such as fever, lack of appetite, weight loss, irritability, anemia and pale gums. There will be no fluid retention.

Diagnosing FIP

If you notice any symptoms of FIP, you should consult your vet and run some tests. FIP can be detected with a conclusive test: the coronavirus test. This analysis will identify the presence of the antibody to the coronavirus (FCoV). FIP can also be detected through routine tests, in case the cat presents no symptoms. A cat with FIP will have a low white blood cell count, low lymphocytes, increased blood globulin and increased serum protein.

If the kidneys are affected by granulomas, the cat will have high creatinine.

If the fluid is accumulated in the liver area, tests will show increased liver enzymes.

FIP Support

FIP cannot be cured. Once the cat is infected, he will die eventually. Meanwhile, support therapy is needed to alleviate the symptoms of the disease, and to prolong the pet’s life.

  • The accumulated fluids must be drained to prevent further complications.
  • The cat should receive fluid therapy, blood transfusions and a prescription diet.
  • If secondary infections occur, the cat will receive antibiotics.
  • Felines with wet FIP can survive for up to 3 months after the infection is contracted.
  • Cats with the dry form of FIP may live up to 1 year with the disease, provided that medical help is given.

Preventing FIP

The coronavirus can be transmitted through saliva, urine and feces. Make sure your cat doesn’t come into contact with infected cats.

If you have a multi-cat household and one of your cats is infected with feline infectious peritonitis, you need to isolate the sick cat. The virus can be transmitted through water or food bowls, as these will contain the saliva of the infected cat.

The virus is sturdy and can survive 6 to 7 weeks in an unclean environment. The virus can be destroyed by bleach.