What is FIP?
Feline infectious peritonitis (often called FIP) is a severe, usually fatal disease caused by a feline coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that chiefly cause respiratory infections.
The disease is seen worldwide. Although a large number of cats may be infected with the feline coronavirus, only a few develop the severe form of the disease. It is unknown why only certain cats are affected, but it is thought that a mutation within the virus and an inappropriate immune response by the individual cat may be responsible.
Cats of all ages and either sex can develop feline infectious peritonitis, but the disease is most frequent in cats 6 months to 2 years old. Although the disease can occur in any breed, purebred cats (including Persian, Abyssinian, Bengal, Birman, Himalayan, Ragdoll, and Rex breeds) are most likely to be affected. Kittens raised in infected colonies may contract the virus from their mothers or from carriers (infected cats with no obvious signs of disease) when their maternal immunity decreases at 5 to 6 weeks of age.
A wet form (effusive) and a dry (non-effusive) form. In the wet form, obvious fluid build-up is present within the abdomen and chest. In the dry form, inflammatory cells accumulate in various organs, such as the liver, kidneys, eyes, and brain. However, characteristics of both the wet and dry forms usually are present to some extent.
Coronavirus infection usually has no signs. In some cases, however, signs can include the following:
- stunted growth
- upper respiratory signs
- weight loss
This stage may last several days or months if severe.