Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a difficult virus to identify in its early stages and no effective treatment is presently available for it. Cats diagnosed with the disorder should be kept indoors.
This killer disease is most likely to strike young cats, often affecting the lining of the abdomen which is known as the peritoneum. It is caused by a virus which is most commonly spread by close contact, so cats housed in catteries and taking part in shows on a regular basis are perhaps most vulnerable. It can however strike household pets on occasions, being contracted from other cats in the neighbourhood.
This is because there are so many different strains of the virus responsible for FIP, and it keeps mutating into new forms, so it is hard to ensure protection against every form. Not all strains are harmful.
Q. My cat has had a blood test which proved to be positive for FIP. Does this mean that she will die of the disease?
Not necessarily, since she may have been exposed to a relatively mild strain, but there is a risk that it could be serious. It is not possible to distinguish the different strains of virus from the blood test.
The coronavirus only survives for a short time outside the cat’s body, but it is present in urine and other body fluids.here are usually no obvious
signs following the initial infection by the FIP virus, but in a few cases there may be an upper respiratory tract infection, which can be linked with conjunctivitis. The incubation time before symptoms become apparent is variable, extending from weeks to years, and the initial symptoms themselves may be fairly vague.
They are likely to include loss of appetite and depression, combined with a raised temperature. The most obvious indicator of this illness is a swelling of the abdomen caused by a build-up of fluid here, although in some cases the disease may alternatively result in the formation of nodules in many of the body organs, including the brain.
Attempts to treat the cat’s fever with antibiotics fail, simply because these will not overcome the virus. There is now a vaccine available however, although it is not as reliable in guarding against this infection as vaccines used to prevent other diseases, protecting roughly eight out of ten cats. There is also the risk that if the cat is already infected by FIP when it is vaccinated, then this may cause the illness to develop at a faster rate.
- vaccine to protect against FIP has to be given by squirting it up the nose until a kitten is 16 weeks old, rather than by injection. This may make it harder to administer successfully.
- Once a cat develops the swollen abdomen which characterises this disease, it will die within a few weeks.
- Providing and ensuring that cats use separate litter trays in the home is possibly the best way of preventing the spread of this infection, if you have more than one cat.