The coronavirus, which has been affecting the whole world for the last two years, is actually among the viruses that veterinarians have encountered most frequently in animals for years. It can be said that FIP is also one of the infections that cat owners frequently encounter. We have created this content for you in order to deal with this issue in depth and to guide cat owners. Let’s examine all aspects of Fip disease in cats.
What is Fip Disease?
In short, feline infectious peritonitis, or FIP, is a systemic and fatal disease caused by a mutated form of feline coronavirus (FCoV). Contrary to popular belief, feline coronavirus is different from Covid-19 seen in humans and is not transmitted from cats to humans.
The coronavirus is a virus that resides in the intestines of cats, which usually does not cause illness or causes only mild enteritis (intestinal inflammation). This virus, which is found in almost 90% of stray cats, mutates when the immune system is weakened and causes FIP disease in cats. Young cats are more prone to this disease because their immune systems are not yet developed and they cannot prevent the virus from mutating and multiplying. In house cats carrying this virus, viral diseases that may develop as a result of not complying with the vaccination schedule, changes in the house, reasons that may cause stress such as moving, a new animal or a new person coming home, and other diseases that can be passed play a role in lowering the immune system. The coronavirus can mutate in a cat whose immune system is compromised, thus making cats vulnerable to Fip disease.
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Fip Symptoms in Cats, Disease Process and Treatment
How Is Fip Disease Transmitted?
Feline coronavirus is transmitted to cats in the same environment, as a result of the use of a common food-water bowl and toilet, as a result of oral ingestion of the virus by another cat from the feces of a cat carrying the virus. The spread of this virus is very rapid in homes, shelters and feeding areas where more than one cat lives together. Therefore, attention should be paid to both hygiene and vaccination program in such areas.
What Are the Symptoms of Fip Disease in Cats?
Fip has two forms, wet (effusive) and dry (non-fusic). Wet Fip disease is more common than the dry form. In the wet form, damage to the blood vessels of cats results in fluid accumulation in the thoracic cavity, abdominal cavity, or both. The fluid accumulated in the abdominal cavity is easily noticed by the patient as swelling and tension in the abdomen. Fluid accumulating in the chest cavity puts pressure on the lungs, making it difficult for the cat to breathe. In Dry Fip disease, neurological symptoms such as eye lesions, unbalanced gait, contractions in the front legs or not being able to stand up at all, head shaking, turning, trembling in the pupils, and behavioral changes are observed. Symptoms common to both forms include:
- constant sleepiness
- weight loss
- developmental delay
- Recurrent and antibiotic resistant fever
- Distorted bristle structure
However, these symptoms are not specific as they can be seen in other possible diseases. FIP can also involve internal organs in later stages. As a result of this, results such as enlargement of the intra-abdominal lymph nodes and lesions in the organs, liver and kidney failures may be encountered.
How is the disease diagnosed?
Diagnosis is made using clinical signs, complete blood count (hematocrit), profile of organ values (biochemistry), rapid test kits, and analysis of fluid from the chest or abdominal cavity. Advanced imaging methods such as x-ray and ultrasound help confirm the diagnosis.
How to Treat Fip in Cats?
FIP had no specific treatment until recently. Treatments that support the immune system and relieve symptoms were applied. Although the animal’s lifespan was tried to be extended, the course of the disease was not considered bright and it was seen as a high probability that it would result in death.
As a result of studies carried out in recent years, anti-viral drugs that are used in the treatment of Fip in cats and can be considered hope for this deadly disease have been found. The most effective and widely used of these is the molecule named GS-441524. It is recommended that this treatment be administered as a subcutaneous injection every day for 84 days at doses appropriate for weight. During this treatment process, the patient’s weight, general condition and blood values are monitored regularly. In addition to these, if the fluid collected in the body cavities in wet Fip disease prevents the animal’s breathing, especially the fluid in the chest cavity is drained and comfortable breathing is provided. If the fluid accumulated in the abdominal cavity is not too much, it is preferred not to be drained.
Although very good results are obtained from the GS-441524, the success rate is not 100%. Sometimes, although the treatment gives positive results, there is a possibility of recurrence when the treatment is stopped. This drug is not yet licensed in our country and it should be known that there are counterfeit drugs in the market. Therefore, a veterinarian should be consulted and the information given by non-veterinarians should not be taken into account.