What is FIP in cats? FIP is an acronym for feline immunodeficiency virus or FIV. This is a highly contagious disease caused by the infection of a virus known as the feline leukemia virus. It is commonly called FCoV in academic literature. FIP in cats occurs very rarely, affecting only about one percent of cats. It tends to affect older cats more than younger ones, and those with a history of infectious disease in their families are more likely to develop it.
FIP is a viral disease, not an infectious disease like the cold or flu. It cannot be transmitted from one pet cat to another, though sexual contact between cats can result in the transmission of the virus, as well as helping to spread the disease among other felines in the household. It tends to affect male cats more than female ones, and possibly because of the male’s greater capacity to transport and pass on the disease. The major risk factors for developing FIP include having multiple cats, having an unseen partner, a mother with an unspayed female litter, and living in an area with higher than normal FIV activity.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF FIP IN CATS?
FIP symptoms in cats include appetite loss, dehydration, lethargy, and at times even bleeding of the gums, respiratory infections, and sometimes intestinal problems. When there is a case of FIP in cats, there will usually be several other symptoms associated with the disease. Recognizing these other symptoms, and being able to recognize them early on, can help your vet to determine the best course of treatment for your cat. In most cases, treatment consists of an antifungal medication that is either taken orally or injected into the affected area.
Because the symptoms of FIP can mimic those of other diseases, it’s important to get it diagnosed by an experienced veterinarian. A cat that coughs up green mucus or loose hair, or eats or drinks semen that has an unusual odor might be suffering from a secondary infection, such as bladder stones or kidney stones. It’s best to treat the primary illness first, to make sure your cat doesn’t get FIP and become sicker.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT OF FIP IN CATS?
The treatment of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) in cats includes prescription medications, as well as antibiotics if the illness becomes particularly severe. Sometimes, both medications are required. If your vet diagnoses FIP in cats, he may prescribe fluconazole (Ditropan) which is often used to treat fungal infections. Other prescription medications include prednisone, cortisone, or erythromycin. Cats treated with medications for feline infectious peritonitis should also be given a nutritional supplement to help compensate for the loss of protein in their diet, which has been reported to cause diarrhea.
In kittens and cats less than four weeks of age, the incubation period for this disease is much shorter than in adult cats, who have a much longer incubation period. Most kittens will survive the disease, but premature deaths do occur. Early treatment means a faster recovery and the prevention of secondary infections. As the illness progresses, your vet may recommend that your cat receive an operation to remove the abnormal cells, called biopsies, from the lungs. Another operation may be needed to repair the lung tissue that has become infected with the coronavirus.
There is no vaccine to prevent feline infectious peritonitis, and none of the available treatments actually cure the disease. Treatments are available to relieve some of the symptoms and extend the cat’s chances of recovery. The goal is to reduce the damage done to the sphincter and to minimize the chances of recurrence in the future. Cats with FIP typically get better within a week, but it’s important to continue treatment even if symptoms don’t disappear. As the disease progresses, it becomes more difficult to control and eventually becomes fatal.
Hence, FIP is not a dangerous disease, but it can cause serious problems for your cat. If your cat develops the wet form or the distended abdomen, be sure to get it checked out by a vet immediately.