All Pets Veterinary Clinic
Feline infectious peritonitis, or FIP, is a devastating disease that is most often
fatal for cats. FIP is caused by a virus and is estimated to occur in 2% of cats.
In catteries, the incidence is higher and estimated at 10%. The remainder of this
article will focus on the spread, signs, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of this
Transmission. Like feline leukemia and FIV, FIP is spread by direct contact.
The most common route of infection is via ingestion of the virus.
Signs. FIP can have various signs, many of which are vague and nonspecific. Some
of the signs that may be seen in an FIV infection are: a fluctuating fever that does
not respond to antibiotics, weight loss, anorexia, abdominal distension, vomiting,
diarrhea, pancreatitis, difficulty breathing, coughing, seizures, and tremors. The virus
can also infect and cause problems with the liver, kidneys, spleen, and eyes.
Diagnosis. Diagnosis can be difficult because of the wide variety of signs that
may be present. Bloodwork, including a CBC and Chemistry may show some changes that are
suggestive of FIP. If there is abdominal distension, fluid removed from the abdomen may
be suggestive of FIP. The only way to prove that FIP is present is to biopsy specific
tissues and submit them to a lab for histopathology.
Treatment. There is no specific treatment for FIP. Treatment is generally
supportive in nature and may include fluids, antibiotics, blood transfusions, antiviral
medications, etc. The prognosis for FIP is poor and most cats will die from FIP, even
with the best medical care.
Prevention. As with most things, prevention is often easier than treatment.
There are vaccines available for FIP, however their effectiveness is questionable at
this point in time. The best recommendation for prevention of FIP is to avoid exposure.
Do not let cats roam. Cats that roam will be more likely to come into contact with cats
that are infected with FIP. If you take in stray cats, they should be isolated from
other cats for at least one month. During this time they should be examined by a
veterinarian and tested for FIV and feline leukemia as well.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not
intended to take the place of your regular veterinarian. Please do not hesitate
to contact your regular veterinarian if you have questions regarding your pet.
Karen Blakeley, DVM, MPH
13 December 2002