Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Feline Infectious Peritonitis, FIP for short, takes two forms - effusive (wet) and noneffusive (dry). The causal agent is a virus belonging to the family Coronaviridae.

While the incidence of FIP is higher among purebred cats, this seems to be caused by environment (confinement) rather than a genetic predisposition. Nevertheless, some lines seem to be more susceptible than others.

FIP is a serious, deadly concern for breeders, animal shelters, and areas where many cats live together, particularly if kittens are present.

Cats of all ages contract FIP, though it is more common in kittens and young cats up to one and a half year of age. The primary route of transmission is oral-fecal. A susceptible cat is infected through licking or through contact with the excreta of an infected cat. It is thought that airborne transmission of the virus is possible, though researchers have not determined whether fleas and other insect bites can spread the disease.

It is likely that some cats that have come into contact with the virus are healthy carriers who excrete the virus on occasion, in times of stress, illness, or during reproduction. The FIP virus is highly resistant and can survive outside the body for several weeks.

There are different strains of feline coronaviruses (FcoV), from very mild (unnoticed infection), to moderately severe (causing enteritis), and the highly virulent strains responsible for clinical FIP. Depending on the strain contracted, the mortality rate ranges from 0% to 100%. Most strains are only moderately virulent. The viruses responsible for clinical FIP are probably mutations of FcoV.

Following infection by a feline coronavirus, the following symptoms may appear :
- An asymptomatic infection or moderate intestinal infection; the cat tests positive and is often a healthy carrier
- An isolated abdominal or ocular inflammation
- Full-fledged peritonitis; only 1% to 10% of all cats infected with a feline coronavirus develop FIP symptoms, the most serious form of the disease. FIP is almost always fatal.

Incubation ranges from one to two days up to several years. Two major forms of FIP exist: Effusive, in which fluid builds up in body cavities, and noneffusive. The clinical signs of the noneffusive form vary depending on the organ(s) affected (encephalitis, for example). Symptoms are treated to slow the progression of the disease, but no cure currently exists.
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Cat Fancier's Association : Health Commitee
Feline Infectious Peritonitis - updated information for breeders
Susan Little DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Feline)
CFA Health Comitee