Feline Infectious Peritonitis
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a viral disease of cats that first began to appear in the 1950s and a lot is still unknown about this killer disease. The disease comes from feline coronavirus which tends to attack the cells of the intestinal wall. Coronavirus is a common disease in cats and if a cat tests positive for the virus, it does not mean that they will go on to develop FIP.
Most doctors now believe that there is some genetic predisposition to developing FIP, as well as a mutation with the virus itself. Cats with FIP generally present with weight loss, fever and anorexia.
There are two forms of FIP: “wet” and “dry.” The wet form is characterized by accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity, the chest cavity, or both. The abdominal enlargement (ascites) can put pressure on the chest and cause breathing difficulty. This effusion is characteristic- a yellow sticky/stringy exudate spells disaster. In the dry from, lesions are more localized to one or more organ systems and do not cause the “leakage.” This disease can also cause lesions in the eye and the central nervous system.
Diagnosis can be difficult, especially for the dry form. There is no single test that can confirm FIP. There is also no cure for FIP, though immunosuppressive drugs such as steroids can sometimes help extend life. Further research is ongoing to help us end this disease.