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FIP or Feline Infectious Peritonitis is a disease that affects cats. It is caused by particular virus strains belonging to the coronavirus. Not all strains of the coronavirus lead to disease i.e. they are avirulent. Typically, these strains are referred to as the feline enteric coronavirus.
Cats that carry the coronavirus may not show any symptoms at all in the beginning. In fact, their immune systems develop antiviral antibodies to keep the coronavirus subdued. However, in some cats, the coronavirus can lead to full blown FIP. This happens when there is a problem with the immune response or when a viral mutation occurs. At this stage, the cat is said to be affected with FIP.
Due to aberrations in the immune system, the antibodies end up causing the white blood cells to get infected as well. The white blood cells then end up transporting the virus to the rest of the cat’s body. As a result of this, the tissues that house the infected cells become inflamed. This usually includes regions such as the brain, kidney, and abdomen. The sad truth is that there really is no cure for FIP and affected cats will eventually die as the disease progresses further. FIP is also referred to as an immune-mediated disease and is considered to be a very strange and unique one as well.
FIP can manifest in two forms – dry and wet. There are some symptoms that are common to both forms, while other that aren’t. For instance, incurable fever is a symptom in both, wet and dry FIP. This is followed by other common symptoms such as lethargy, weight loss, and anorexia. As for form-specific symptoms, wet FIP is characterized by fluid accumulation within the chest or abdominal cavity. This further leads to problems such as labored breathing. One way to identify fluid accumulation is by observing the affected cat’s abdomen. If it is distended, this indicates fluid accumulation.
Dry FIP has characteristic symptoms such as the accumulation of inflammatory cells within organs. This is reflected in the organ that is most affected. For example, if it’s the kidneys, your cat will show symptoms such as vomiting, weight loss, and excessive thirst, which leads to excessive urination. The neurological system and the eyes are, often, affected too.
As mentioned earlier, there is no cure for FIP. It is a progressive disease that eventually leads to death. However, there are treatment options to help alleviate some of the symptoms. This might help the cat enjoy a better quality of life, however, on a temporary basis. But, the most recommended solution is to euthanize the cat in order to release it from its suffering.
There is a vaccine that prevents FIP. However, it can only be given to kittens that are older than 16 weeks. But, it so happens that, most kittens get exposed to the FCoV infection by the time they reach that age.