FIP in Cats Caused By Feline Coronavirus

The contagious infectious disease FIP is triggered in cats by a mutation in the feline coronavirus. How long cats can live with FIPS and how to recognize FIP can be found here.

FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) is a serious infectious disease. It is triggered in cats by the Feline Coronavirus. The virus is very contagious to other cats, but not every cat will actually develop FIP after infection.

Read here how FIP shows up in cats, what the life expectancy is for cats with FIP, and what you can do if your cat gets FIP.

Coronaviruses Lead to FIP

It is known that cats often contract coronaviruses. Normally, an infection with the feline coronavirus only causes diarrhea. However, there is a possibility that the viruses in the cat’s body will mutate into FIP pathogens.

The feline coronavirus has little to do with the global Sars-CoV-2 pandemic: there are different virus variants.

Infection With FIP in Cats

Infected cats excrete the initially harmless coronavirus through body fluids, which other cats contract through the mouth and nose. The infected cat’s immune system begins to fight the virus.

But if the immune system breaks down, the viruses multiply rapidly. The viruses mutate. FIP viruses do not always develop, but the more FIP viruses the cat carries, the higher the risk that the cat will contract FIP. FIP is not contagious to humans.

FIP is most common in young cats between the ages of six months and two years or in older cats aged 14 and over.

Causes of FIP in Cats

The following causes favor the collapse of the immune system and thus the onset of FIP in cats:

  • Other infections that greatly weaken the immune system, such as FeLV
  • Inbreeding in cats leads to a weakened immune system
  • infestation with parasites
  • Poor diet
  • Keeping multiple cats: Cats that live in close proximity to many other cats are more likely to develop FIP
  • Shared use of a litter box by several cats: The animals become infected with corona viruses again and again. The viruses never die out this way
  • Stress (e.g. triggered by the change of ownership)

Test Cat for FIP

Only in a few cats does the coronavirus mutate and lead to FIP. FIP cannot be reliably detected with any test. This means that the disease can never be diagnosed with a so-called FIP test alone.

This FIP test is based on the detection of antibodies against the coronavirus in the blood. If the cat has formed antibodies, it only means that it has come into contact with the coronavirus. The FIP test can only tell if the cat has FIP in conjunction with other laboratory values ​​and the cat’s symptoms.

Symptoms of FIP in Cats

Some cats infected with the coronavirus remain symptom-free. Others have runny noses and diarrhea. Infection with the virus is mild as long as the virus does not multiply and mutate.

However, if the cat’s immune system is weakened to such an extent that FIP ​​finally breaks out, the first symptoms appear relatively quickly. These can also be painful for the cat. There are two forms of FIP: wet FIP ​​and dry FIP.

Symptoms of Wet FIP

Wet FIP ​​becomes noticeable when the cat’s abdomen fills with viscous fluid. The cat takes on a pear shape. The symptoms of wet FIP ​​in cats also include:

  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • apathy
  • peritonitis

Symptoms of Dry FIP

The dry FIP, which now occurs more frequently, is not so easy to identify – the peritonitis and the fluid in the abdomen remain absent. The veterinarian must therefore combine findings from the FIP test and other laboratory tests to make a diagnosis. Also, these symptoms may indicate dry FIP:

  • recurrent fever
  • loss of appetite
  • apathy
  • jaundice
  • eye changes
  • paralysis
  • behavior changes
  • anemia
  • difficulty breathing

The insidious thing about the dry form of FIP is that the symptoms are so varied. The definitive diagnosis of FIP can often only be made after the death of the cat during an autopsy.

Treatment of FIP in Cats

FIP can only be treated to a limited extent in cats. If the cat shows symptoms typical of FIP, the vet can only try to alleviate the symptoms. He will find and treat the cause that favored the onset of FIP.

You too can help a cat with FIP: you can stop the spread of the coronavirus to slow down the course of FIP. The more the coronavirus multiplies, the more likely it is that the viruses will mutate – the risk of the cat contracting FIP is significantly higher. Here’s how you can keep the coronavirus at bay:

  • Avoid Any Stress for Your Cat
  • Avoid medications that weaken the cat’s immune system, or only give such medications in extreme emergencies
  • Keep the litter box scrupulously clean to avoid reinfecting the cat through its own feces

Be sure to try to contain the coronavirus: the chances are very good that the infected cat will not develop FIP. Only in a small percentage does the virus mutate and eventually lead to FIP.

How long do cats with FIP live?
The life expectancy of cats with FIP is short. FIP is a major problem, especially for young cats: over 50 percent of cats with the disease die before the age of about one year, and another 20 percent before the age of four. Only the remaining 30 percent of cats become ill at an older age.

Many cat owners question whether they should euthanize a cat with FIP. The question is how successfully the multiplication of the coronavirus can be contained. Keep close consultation with your veterinarian: If the cat suffers severely from the symptoms, you should think twice about putting the cat to sleep.

Is There a Vaccination Against FIP ​​in Cats?

You cannot vaccinate your cat against FIP. However, there is a vaccination against the Feline Coronavirus. You can have your cats vaccinated against it from the 16th week. Unfortunately, by this point, most cats have already become infected.

Cats should only be vaccinated against feline coronavirus if there are no longer any antibodies in their blood. Vaccination is no longer effective if the cat has already been infected with the coronavirus. In any case, you should discuss how effective the vaccination is with a veterinarian.

Research on FIP in Cats Offers Hope

In 2019 Prof. Dr. Niels Pedersen of the University of California, Davis conducted a study on FIP in cats. He made the breakthrough: the drug GS-441524 had been able to cure many cats of FIP as part of his investigations.

The problem: The active ingredient GS-441524 has not yet been approved in Germany, but the drug can be found on the black market. Many desperate cat owners around the world choose this route to get the active ingredient that could cure their cats.

Cat owners should be aware that many side effects of long-term treatment with the active ingredient GS-441524 in cats with FIP are not yet foreseeable. If at all, this drug should only be used in close consultation and cooperation with a veterinarian.

Luckily, most cats’ immune systems are strong enough to fight off the development of FIP. However, should your cat become ill, you should take the warning signs seriously and seek comprehensive advice from your veterinarian.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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