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Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
By Virginia Clemans, DVM
Feline infectious peritonitis is a very devastating
disease in cats caused by a corona virus. There
are two forms of the disease: the wet form (with
accumulation of massive amounts of fluid in the
abdomen or chest) and the dry form (with no fluid
accumulation). Cats of any age can be affected,
but the disease occurs most often in young cats
from six months to five years of age.
What are the signs that a cat has FIP?
At first, the signs of the disease can be hard to distinguish from many other conditions.
The cat may have a fever, trouble breathing, runny nose or eyes, diarrhea or weight loss.
If the cat has the wet form of the disease, he or she will have abdominal swelling. This
swelling, combined with weight loss, makes the cat appear “fat,” but it is very easy to feel
the spine and hip bones. If the fluid accumulation is in the chest, then difficulty breathing
may be the only sign. Occasionally, there may be changes in the appearance of the eyes
(clouding, redness or hemorrhage). Sometimes the disease also affects the nervous
system, causing changes in personality or seizures.
How is the disease diagnosed?
Diagnosis by laboratory testing can be difficult since most cats naturally have the corona
virus that causes the disease. What causes the development of the disease signs is
the cat’s immune response to the virus. For this reason, FIP is not considered to be a
contagious disease in the traditional sense. There is a laboratory test, but a positive test
merely means that the cat has a corona virus, not that the cat will develop the disease.
Diagnosis is very often made by analysis of the characteristic fluid drawn from the
abdomen or chest coupled with the development of the characteristic signs of the
disease. In cats with the dry form of the disease, diagnosis can be more difficult.
Is there a cure for the disease?
Once the cat is showing clinical signs, there is no cure. FIP typically ru