Feline Infectious Peritonitis – 10 Important things You must Know

This post include on query Feline Infectious Peritonitis and everything you must know about feline coronavirus by thevetscare.com

What is Feline coronavirus ?

The following information isn’t intended to replace regular visits to your veterinarian. If you think your cat may have feline infectious peritonitis, please see your veterinarian immediately. And remember, please do not give any medication to your pet without talking to your veterinarian first.


What Is Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral disease that occurs worldwide in wild and domestic cats. It is caused by a type of virus called a coronavirus, which tends to attack the cells of the intestinal wall. In 1970, the coronavirus that causes FIP was isolated and characterized. In 1981, another coronavirus was isolated. Although this virus is nearly identical to the FIP virus, cats who were infected with it developed only very mild diarrhea and recovered easily.

What Are the Symptoms of FIP?

FIP manifests in a “wet” form and a “dry” form. Signs of both forms include fever that doesn’t respond to antibiotics, anorexia, weight loss and lethargy. In addition, the wet form of FIP is characterized by accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity, the chest cavity, or both.

Cats with fluid in the chest exhibit labored breathing. Cats with fluid in the abdomen show progressive, nonpainful abdominal distension. In the dry form of FIP, small accumulations of inflammatory cells, or granulomas, form in various organs, and clinical signs depend on which organ is affected. If the kidneys are affected, excessive thirst and urination, vomiting and weight loss are seen; if the liver, jaundice. The eyes and the neurologic system are frequently affected, as well.

How Is FIP Diagnosed?

Diagnosing FIP is challenging. Despite the claims made by some laboratories and test manufacturers, there is currently no test that can distinguish between the harmless intestinal coronavirus and the deadly FIP coronavirus. A positive test may support the veterinarian’s suspicions, but by itself is inconclusive. It means only that a cat has been exposed to and may be harboring a coronavirus. A negative test usually (but not always) indicates that the cat is unlikely to have FIP.

If a cat has what appears to be the wet form of the disease, laboratory analysis of some of the fluid can support a diagnosis of FIP. A 1994 study reported that cats with signs suggestive of FIP, who also had a high coronavirus antibody level, reduced numbers of lymphocytes and high levels of globulins in the bloodstream, had an 88.9 percent probability of having FIP. Diagnosing the dry form of the disease is even more challenging, often requiring biopsy of affected organs.

Feline Coronavirus (FCoV) RT-PCR

Feline Coronavirus (FCoV) is a common viral infection in cats. It generally causes asymptomatic infection, but can cause mild diarrhea. As yet poorly understood changes in the virus can give rise to mutants that lead to the development of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).  Most cats infected with a FCoV eliminate virus following infection, but some cats may develop a persistent infection.

These cats are generally asymptomatic, can shed large amounts of virus in feces, and serve as a continual source of infection for other cats in the environment. Continual circulation of FCoV within a cat population may increase the chance that a virulent FIP strain might emerge.  While the pathogenesis of FIP is poorly understood, it is now believed that detection and removal of persistently infected and shedding cats in a multi-cat household can reduce the risk of FIP emergence within that population.

In response to the increased interest within the cat breeding and cat owning community, the Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University now offers a fecal RT-PCR test for FCoV. This test can be used to identify asymptomatic FCoV shedding cats so steps can be taken to isolate them from other cats or to prevent their introduction to a resident population.

Samples required for the fecal RT-PCR screening test are 2-5 grams fresh feces. When screening an individual cat in a multi-cat household it is important to positively identify the source of the fecal sample. Mixing of fecal samples from multiple cats may result in an inaccurate result. Feces should be stored in a clean plastic bag to prevent dehydration.

In clinical FIP suspect cats, the test can also identify FCoV in ascites fluid, whole blood, plasma, serum or fresh tissues (kidney, liver, or spleen).  Samples from FIP-suspects should include 1-2 ml of fluid (ascites, whole blood, serum, or plasma) or 1-2 grams of fresh tissues. 

All samples should be shipped in a leak-proof container to the laboratory by overnight courier on ice packs for optimal test outcomes.

Fecal FCoV RT-PCR tests should be interpreted cautiously. Single positive or negative tests are meaningless as cats may shed intermittently or may be recently infected. To be identified as a chronic shedding carrier, a cat should be fecal virus positive on multiple tests over an 8-month period. A cat that tests negative on monthly tests over a 5-month period of time may be considered a non-shedder. (Addie D.D., Jarrett O. 2001 Use of  a reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction for monitoring the shedding of feline coronavirus by healthy cats. Veterinary Record. Vol 148. pp. 649-653.)

In a cat with clinical signs consistent with FIP, FCoV RT-PCR positive results on fluids or tissues may indicate active FIP.  FCoV RT-PCR positive results in tissues from a clinically normal cat are only indicative of infection with FCoV.