FIP in Cats (Feline Infectious Peritonitis)

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is one of the most feared infectious diseases in cats – and unfortunately rightly so! And what does the Feline Coronavirus (FCoV) have to do with it? Our article summarizes the most important information about FIP in cats and explains how you can protect your darling from the consequences.

How Dangerous is FIP in Cats?

As drastic as it sounds, if a cat actually has FIP, it is a sure death sentence. Veterinarians are working hard to find effective drugs against the disease, but no curative agent has yet been approved in Germany.

Symptoms: What Are the Main Signs of the Disease?

First of all, a clear distinction must be made here between the symptoms of an infection with the rather harmless feline coronavirus and those of FIP disease in cats.

The feline coronavirus usually causes no or only mild symptoms such as mild diarrhea and runny nose. However, if the virus mutates into the FIP virus (FIPV), the first symptoms appear after a different length of time.

In the first phase of the disease, affected cats tend to show unspecific symptoms such as:

  • fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • fatigue
  • slight breathing difficulties

First of all, the first symptoms subside. After a different length of time, the symptoms of the second phase appear. A distinction is made between two different forms of FIP in cats:

The wet (exudative) FIP

In the wet form of feline infectious peritonitis, the cat’s peritoneum becomes inflamed (peritonitis). Fluid comes out and collects in the abdomen (ascites). A big belly is therefore typical while the cat continues to lose weight.

In some cases, the inflammation spreads to the pleura and fluid also collects in the chest cavity. In addition to these symptoms, anemia and jaundice (jaundice) is common.

The dry FIP

Recognizing the dry form of FIP in cats is not that easy in contrast to the wet variant. Usually, the cats have repeated attacks of fever and sometimes breathing difficulties. The internal organs such as the liver, spleen, or kidneys are inflamed.

The most important symptoms of the disease at a glance:

  • fever
  • apathy
  • emaciation
  • anemia
  • Increase in abdominal girth (due to the accumulation of fluid from peritonitis)
  • Jaundice (jaundice)

Diagnosis: How Can FIP be Detected in Cats?

If your cat’s general condition is poor or if you notice other symptoms, a visit to the veterinarian is advisable. The general clinical examination and the vaccination status of the cat give the first clues for the diagnosis.

If the cat is suspected of having FIP, the veterinarian will initiate further examinations. Unfortunately, there is no single test that can diagnose FIP in cats. Rather, it resembles a puzzle that is composed of many individual parts. If the many pieces of the puzzle come together that indicate feline infectious peritonitis, the infection is very likely.

The following investigations will be initiated:

  • Blood test: Typical changes in the blood count, such as a lack of red blood cells (anemia), substantiate the suspicion.
  • Detection of antibodies: The sole detection of antibodies does not yet prove the disease. However, cats suffering from FIP usually have a much higher number of antibodies.
  • Direct pathogen detection: the FIP virus can be detected directly in the blood, feces, or ascites secretions. If this test is negative, however, the FIP does not rule out cats.
  • Pathological Examination: Sad but true – the final diagnosis of FIP is usually only made by the pathologist after the cat has died.

Therapy: Can Feline Infectious Peritonitis Be Treated?

Unfortunately, FIP in cats is still incurable. As long as the condition of the cat allows, the vet will use supportive measures. The treatment improves the affected cat’s quality of life. If the state of health worsens dramatically, the only thing that currently remains is the cat’s salvation.

But hopefully not much longer: In the USA there is a new active ingredient that appears to work against the virus. However, this drug has not yet been approved in Germany. Therefore, the vets are not yet allowed to use the active ingredient against FIP ​​in cats.

If the drug proves to be effective in the course of an approval process, we will hopefully soon be able to use it.

Prognosis: What are the Chances of Recovery?

An infection with the feline coronavirus is usually mild, which is why the prognosis is quite good. If, however, the dreaded mutation of the coronavirus to FIPV occurs and the disease breaks out, the prognosis is unfortunately hopeless.

Causes: How Does the Disease Come About?

When it comes to the causes of FIP in cats, a clear distinction must first be made between infection with the feline coronavirus (FCoV) and feline infectious peritonitis.

FCoV is widespread among cats. They become infected through contact with feces, saliva, and nasal secretions, but also through contaminated objects. Incidentally, humans are not infected with the feline coronavirus, but big cats do.

Mutation creates dangerous FIP virus

But how does a coronavirus infection become FIP in cats? This is because coronaviruses particularly like to mutate. Healthy cats with healthy immune systems appear to be able to prevent this mutation.

However, if the cat’s immune system is weakened, it no longer keeps the virus in check as well. This also explains why cats between the ages of six months and two years and cats over the age of 14 fall ill more often.

Another risk factor is that many cats live together in a small space. The cats keep infecting each other. So not only does the number of viruses in the cat increase, but also the likelihood of the virus mutating.

By the way: As contagious as the feline coronavirus is, it is unlikely to be infected with the variant that has mutated into the FIP virus.

If a cat in the household suffers from FIP, this does not automatically mean that everyone else is also infected. You should still separate infected cats from the other animals in your household.

Prevention: How Do I Avoid FIP in Cats?

The good news is, you can prevent feline infectious peritonitis. In principle, you can have your cat vaccinated against FIP from the age of 16 weeks. However, the vaccine is not undisputed among specialists. You should therefore seek detailed advice from your vet.

Furthermore, the vaccination only makes sense if the cat has not yet been infected with the feline coronavirus. This is why the vet will test your cat’s blood for antibodies before vaccination. If these are already available, vaccination unfortunately no longer makes sense.

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.

Leave a Reply


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *