What is FIP? Why should I be aware of it?
Simply put; FIP, or feline infectious peritonitis is a viral, immune-mediated disease. It was discovered in 1963, and for 60 years has been labeled a complete death sentence for cats inflicted by it. It is one of the lead causes of death in cats. It is caused by a feline coronavirus (NOT COVID-19, you cannot get feline coronavirus from your cat.) that affects upwards of 80-100% of cats! In most cases, coronavirus causes no symptoms or mild diarrhea that typically resolves without treatment. However, in some cats, the virus may mutate, or change. since FIP is an immune mediated disease, it is caused by the immune cells overreacting or attacking the body, displaying an extreme inflammatory response. if this occurs upon the coronavirus mutating, they may develop FIP. Testing for coronavirus in a cat is typically unhelpful, as there isn’t a way to tell the difference between them having a harmless coronavirus and the mutated coronavirus causing FIP.
What are the symptoms of FIP and how can we treat it?
While FIP is definitely a very scary illness, it can be overcome in many cats! It is important to know the signs of it however, as the best thing you can do is to act fast. It can kill in just days, or it can spread over months. It may inflict permanent neurological damage in some cats, but knowing the signs and being able to diagnose it is the best thing you can do for your kitty- and it may very well save their life! So you may be wondering, ‘what are the symptoms of FIP?’ That’s a good question! Many of the signs can be vague, so we’ll quickly go over the three main types of FIP. Wet, or effusive FIP is characterized by the buildup of fluid, also called effusion or ascites. It typically swells in the stomach, chest, and around the lungs and heart. It is more common than the other form, called ‘dry’ FIP. Effusive cats may be subclinical for weeks, appearing generally unthrifty before other clinical manifestations. The Dry form of FIP is the lack of effusion buildup, it is a more chronic form of the disease and tends to have localized masses in the kidney, spleen, liver, bowel, eyes, heart, lungs, etc. Mixed FIP is usually where a cat switches between wet and dry symptoms- I.e, dry with neurological symptoms. Symptoms in afflicted cats are not always obvious. They may include: fever, (especially unresponsive to antibiotics) anorexia (loss of appetite), weight loss, abdominal distention due to effusion, which may reach up to a liter in severe cases, Dyspnea (shortness of breath due to effusion involvement), Synovitis (inflammatory joint disease) ocular signs such as uveitis, corneal edema, conjunctivitis, ulcers, broken blood vessels in the eyes, cortical blindness manifesting as dilated pupils, etc., neurological symptoms such as: weakness or lameness of the limbs, difficulty with jumping or jumping in an atypical way, stumbling, tipping over, swaying, tilting head to one side, abnormal eye movements or different pupil sizes, nystagmus, depression or changes in behavior, seizures (this is an emergency and must be treated right away! Seizures may very well kill the cat in minutes if they continue.), hyperesthesia syndrome (brief, strange bursts of abnormal behavior or rippling/rolling skin), tremors, legs shaking, muscles twitching, peripheral neuropathy (weakness, numbness or pain, usually in the paws), urinary or fecal incontinence, dermatological manifestations like dermal vasculitis and neutrophilic splenitis, and dementia. Now, you most likely want to know if this can be treated at all. And the answer would be yes! Using a drug called GS-441524, we have successfully cured many, many cats over the years! This treatment, however, is expensive, and not currently legal in the US, but with quick intervention, we can continue to save hundreds- even thousands of cats. If your cat was adopted through our rescue at one of our stores, please contact a store lead or someone in the rescue immediately for help and information about resources.