Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is an illness caused by a type of Coronavirus. Now don’t be alarmed; it’s not the same coronavirus that causes Covid-19 in humans. It’s a rather rare condition that develops in cats after being infected with this particular virus. Fret not; you’ve come to the right place. We’ll break down what is FIP in cats, and is there a cure for it?
Coronavirus In Cats?
Yeah, just when you thought the pandemic couldn’t get any worse, now this? What next, social distancing from my little kitty? NOOOO!
As mentioned above, yes, it is a coronavirus that causes FIP in cats. But it is a strain of feline coronavirus that infects wild and domestic cats. This particular virus does NOT infect humans, just like how the Human Novel Coronavirus that causes Covid-19 in humans will not harm your cat.
Now, aren’t you glad we cleared that up? On to the topic of the day, FIP in cats and how you can protect your furbaby from it.
What Is Cat FIP?
While Feline Coronavirus is very common in the environment, it rarely causes serious symptoms besides mild diarrhoea. Unfortunately, the virus mutates to a particular strain called Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus (FIPV), which causes FIP in cats.
Around 10% of cats infected with feline coronavirus mutate to FIPV, which leads to FIP. While peritonitis is defined as the inflammation of the peritoneum, the layer protecting organs in your cat’s belly (stomach, liver, bowels etc.), FIPV causes inflammation of your cat’s kidneys and brain as well, along with the peritoneum.
How Did My Indoor Cat Get FIP?
While FIP is not known to be highly contagious, it still spreads through contact and bodily fluids (saliva, urine, faeces) from an infected cat. Infection happens when your kitty inhales or ingests the virus. So if your cat is allowed to leave your home and mingle with other cats in the neighbourhood, be mindful of the fact that she could bring home FIP.
Cats can pick up the disease when they share a playpen, toys, food bowls or even groom each other.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis is far more common in cat shelters and housing facilities where outbreaks of FIP are known to happen.
Other known forms of transmission include intra-partum spread, where an infected mother can pass the virus to her unborn litter and through milk to her newborn kittens.
Is FIP Contagious?
It isn’t highly contagious, like the human novel coronavirus (Covid-19). But it still can spread through infected bodily secretions (saliva, milk, urine and faeces)
What Are The Symptoms of FIP in Cats?
The more common initial symptoms of FIP in cats are:
- Loss of appetite
When the disease begins to progress, severe symptoms include seizures (fitting) and even death.
Severe symptoms depend on the form of FIP that a cat develops.
- Dry Form FIP
Inflammation around blood vessels causes the formation of nodules (granulomas) in various organs, including the kidneys, brain, liver, and lungs can lead to symptoms like increased urination and thirst (kidneys), seizures and loss of coordination (brain), jaundice (liver) and breathing difficulties (lungs)
- Wet Form FIP
Fluid tends to build up in this form, leading to a distended belly or fluid in the lungs leading to shortness of breath.
It is also possible for a cat to develop a combination of symptoms from both forms. As the disease progresses, there is very little a vet can do to control the disease.
How Can A Vet Confirm That My Cat Has FIP?
A vet will diagnose FIP after a comprehensive examination of your cat along with laboratory investigations, including blood, urine and faeces samples.
Physical signs like jaundice (yellowing of the gums and eyes), as well as ascites (fluid-filled, bloated tummy), indicate liver damage.
Lab reports showing a marked increase in white blood cells (leukocytosis) or, conversely, a sharp reduction of the same cells (leukopenia) are strong indicators of a viral illness. A rise in protein levels in the blood indicates inflammation of blood vessels, causing a protein leakage.
Your vet might recommend X-ray or ultrasound imaging to help with the diagnosis. If a cat’s tummy is distended with fluid, the vet might want to take a fluid sample.
The immunoperoxidase test can detect white blood cells infected with the virus while a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test (similar to what’s available for Covid-19) can detect the virus in bodily fluids.
What Are The Treatment Options For FIP?
While some new antiviral drugs might be available (such as BasmiFIP GS-441524), they have not been FDA-approved and are not legally available as a treatment, including Malaysia.
The basis of FIP treatment offered by your veterinarian is supportive and symptomatic, which means the vet will do their best to keep the kitty comfortable and pain-free.
But if you do seek BasmiFIP treatment for your cat, do note that the treatment costs are not, unfortunately, covered by Oyen Pet Insurance. As the treatment is not approved for use by vets around the world, including not approved by the Malaysian Vet Council, your vet will not be able to prescribe it as a treatment and include it in your vet bill for claims with Oyen.
Is There A Cure For FIP?
Unfortunately, there is no known cure at the moment for FIP. Always speak to your vet for short term and long term care options. Once a cat reaches the final stages of FIP, euthanasia (putting the cat to sleep) can be offered by the treating vet to minimise its suffering.
Is There A Vaccine For FIP?
While there has been a FIP vaccine in the market since 2002, its efficacy has been questioned. It is therefore not listed as one of the core vaccines that are compulsory for all kittens.
Core vaccines include those for:
- Cat Flu - Feline Herpesvirus (FHV) and Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
- Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
- Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FVP)
What Can I Do To Prevent FIP At Home?
If you have many cats at home, here are a few steps to keep FIP at bay:
- Keep litter boxes away from food/water bowls
- Scoop litter and clean/disinfect your litter boxes regularly
- Keep your cat’s vaccinations and vet appointments up to date
- A balanced, healthy diet for your kitties
- If you have a sick kitten, separate it from the rest of your cats and get it to a vet immediately
While FIP isn’t extremely common in Malaysia, it is worth noting that it can occur, especially if your cats are allowed to roam outdoors or if you regularly foster kittens from shelters.
If you’re a first-time cat owner, you need to be aware of FIP and the importance of vaccination in cats. Pet insurance is also vital when it comes to dealing with unexpected healthcare costs for your furbabies.
Whenever in doubt, do not hesitate to contact your trusted vet for more information and clarification on your kitten’s symptoms.