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Feline Infectious Peritonitis Disclaimer

Also known as FIP, Feline Infectious Peritonitis is a disease caused by infection with the FIP virus. Most cats that develop the disease will die. In general, only 20% of cats exposed to the virus will develop the disease.

How does a cat become infected with FIP?   Top
The virus is inhaled or ingested from another cat excreting the virus. This cat may not necessarily be showing signs of disease and may be a carrier that does not develop signs, or who is in the latent stages of infection. The virus can lie dormant in the body for months to years before the cat develops FIP.

The incidence of FIP is highest in kittens and adult cats less than 3 years of age. Cats in multi-cat environments are at an increased risk of developing the disease and cats that are positive for the feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) may be more susceptible to developing FIP.

What are the signs of FIP?   Top
Vague and nonspecific signs characterize the acute phase. The onset may be sudden, but more often is insidious. Signs include inappetance, lethargy, weight loss, and sometimes a fever. After a period of days to weeks, other signs develop.

There are two forms of FIP: the wet form and the dry form. The wet form is more common and involves the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen or chest leading to a swollen abdomen or difficulty breathing. Other nonspecific signs include vomiting, diarrhoea, and jaundice.

In the dry form lesions form in the liver, kidneys, lungs, central nervous system, eyes, or other organs, and little or no fluid accumulates. Survival time in cats with the dry form tends to be longer than the wet form. Most individuals deteriorate fairly rapidly, and the disease is always fatal.

How is FIP diagnosed?   Top
FIP can be difficult to diagnose definitively. A blood test for the virus can indicate exposure to the virus, but since most cats exposed to FIP do not develop disease, a positive result only supports the diagnosis.

Analysis of fluid can be valuable, and there may be some changes on blood tests. Diagnosis is supported by Xrays and/or ultrasound, biopsies, physical findings, and the progression of the disease. FIP can be diagnosed by post-mortem.

What is the treatment for FIP?   Top
The most effective treatment protocols combine cortisone with cytotoxic drugs and antibiotics. Cats should be tested for FeLV before starting treatment as cats positive to both will not respond to treatment. Affected cats should be isolated from other cats to prevent the spread of the disease.

How can FIP be prevented?   Top
If FIP is diagnosed in a multicat household, it is sensible not to introduce any new cats into the house for at least 6 months. In this time, any cats infected with the virus should have developed signs of FIP. Although the virus is sensitive and cannot exist for long in the environment, it would be sensible to wait at least a month before introducing a new cat into a single-cat household that has just lost a cat to FIP.

A vaccine may soon be available against FIP.

Content Editor: Julia Adams BVSc
Contributors: Dr Rebecca Bragg BVSc
Image kindly supplied by Bayer Australia Limited

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