Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a condition in cats caused by an infection of a coronavirus. It attacks the white blood cells, where the virus grows and mutates, using the cells to transport itself throughout the rest of the cat's body. FIP causes severe inflammation at the infection site and can lead to a variety of symptoms. Here's what you need to know about Feline Infectious Peritonitis.
- Kittens and cats older than 14 years of age are most susceptible to Feline Infectious Peritonitis, as their immune systems are more fragile.
- The coronavirus that causes FIP can be spread through a cat's saliva or feces. Cats become infected with the virus through direct contact with an infected cat, inhaling the virus or picking it up from a contaminated surface such as furniture, toys, food dishes or carpeting. The virus is not passed down from a mother to her kittens, nor can it be spread through breast milk.
- If you have a cat infected with FIP and also have other cats in your household, the chances of the disease spreading are very high. The virus can be killed on household surfaces with most commercial cleaners or detergents or with bleach.
- Initial symptoms of Feline Infectious Peritonitis include sneezing, watery eyes and mild respiratory difficulties. Often a mild intestinal infection occurs, causing diarrhea. Most cats who contract the disease recover from it quickly but they remain carriers of the virus. For some cats, however, FIP develops into a fatal disease, and this can occur weeks after the initial infection, or even years later.
- As the disease progresses, other symptoms include hair and weight loss, loss of appetite, digestive problems, depression and high fever. This leads to excessive fluid gathering in the abdomen or chest, making it difficult for the cat to breathe.
- Signs of severe Feline Infectious Peritonitis include liver and kidney failure, neurological problems such as disorientation and paralysis, diabetes, vomiting and eye infections that can lead to blindness. Each cat will display different symptoms, depending on the severity of the infection and the particular virus they've contracted.
- FIP is an incurable disease. While there is no known treatment for this condition, veterinarians can prescribe medication and therapies to alleviate some of the symptoms and improve quality of life for the cat.
- The life expectancy for a cat diagnosed with Feline Infectious Peritonitis ranges from mere days to about eight months. The disease is not spread to other animals or to humans, but is easily passed from cat to cat.