Feline Infectious Peritonitis
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a fatal disease caused by a virus that attacks blood vessels.
There are two forms:
- Wet: fluid collects in the body spaces, spreads throughout the body, and progresses very quickly
- Dry: no fluid in the body spaces, only in specific body systems, and progresses more slowly
Testing for FIP is complex, and treatment is usually unsuccessful. FIP is of the least understood cat diseases.
A virus causes FIP. It spreads from cat to cat through constant contact.
Some factors that can cause FIP to develop include:
- Genetic disposition
- Suppressed immune system: from an underlying illness or anesthesia
Cats that develop FIP will first show the following signs:
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration
Then, they will show signs of Wet FIP or Dry FIP:
- Swollen belly (fluid in the abdomen)
- Labored breathing(fluid in the chest)
- Dark urine and jaundice: liver failure
- Sudden death (fluid by the heart)
- Paralysis and loss of balance
- Sensitivity to touch
- Involuntary urination
- Discoloration of the eye, irregular pupil
Testing for and diagnosing FIP is difficult because many of the signs show with other diseases. Some tests your veterinarian may perform:
- Routine blood and urine tests
- Organ biopsy
- X-rays, ultrasound: may show fluid in the abdomen or chest
- Chest or abdomen tap: a sample of fluid is drained from the body and tested
There is no treatment for FIP. Veterinary professionals may provide supportive care (IV fluids, feeding tube, antibiotics, etc.) provided by veterinary professionals may help the cat overcome the virus, but survival is highly unlikely. Euthanasia may be the most humane option.
Diagnosing FIP is only to rule out other diseases that are treatable.
There is a vaccine available, but the effectiveness of it is not confirmed. Discuss with your veterinarian if they recommend it for your cat.
You can take some simple steps to try to prevent FIP.
- Scoop litter frequently
- Keep a stress-free environment
The prognosis for FIP is very grave, being fatal in most cases.
Medically Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM