Cat FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis): Causes, Symptoms

Under the pif in cats is feline infectious peritonitis, one of the diseases with the most drastic consequences for the animal.

This disease has its origin in a very common feline coronavirus in cats.

It usually only causes a few bothersome digestive symptoms, such as mild self-limiting diarrhea.

But on some occasions, this virus undergoes a mutation process within the affected animal. It is precisely this viral mutation that causes peritonitis in cats.

What are the sources of contagion of a coronavirus

This coronavirus is practically universal among felines. In fact, its transmission and spread is common in places where animals share a location.

Some veterinarians have dared to put figures on the number of domestic cats that suffer from the infection: between 25% and 40%.

This number shoots up in the case that cats live in houses with many specimens, in shelters and in kennels. The coronavirus is then present in between 80% and 100% of animals.

The feline peritonitis virus is found in the feces of the infected cat. Other cats are contaminated when they ingest it while grooming or eating. Most of the felines that suffer from the infection evacuate the coronavirus for a variable period of time .

It is important to know that a feline affected by peritonitis in cats can regain the infection by contagion from another affected animal . Again it will begin to expel the virus.

Pif in cats is caused by the coronavirus. However, this does not mean that the disease develops. In fact, a comparison shows that very few specimens suffer from the disease. The animal will only be affected by feline peritonitis in cases where the virus is mutated.

What Causes Pif Virus Mutation in Cats

There is no concrete explanation for the viral mutation. It seems that some reasons influence when the virus mutates. Most of the cases in which the contagion ends in pif are very young cats.

In addition, in the face of depressed immunity behaviour, subjecting the animal to stressful situations also seems to influence: a change of location, the castration process, a vaccine, the presence of convergent diseases … All these factors affect young cats more.

However, feline infectious peritonitis affects animals of any age and no evidence has yet been found as to why. Even genetic issues are being considered. The reason is that this infection is more detected in purebred cats.

What are the symptoms of feline peritonitis

The coronavirus mutation can present a very diverse clinical picture. It is the reason why there is no list of characteristic symptoms of this ailment.

Perhaps the most common of pif in cats is found in the most usual version of the pathology. It’s called wet pif and causes a waxy fluid to build up in the abdominal or chest cavity.

In the first case, the cat suffers a distention of the abdomen, in the second it can end with a pleural effusion and respiratory difficulties.

However, there are many cases with pif that present without this symptomatology. It is difficult to make an early diagnosis of the disease. The symptoms are usually very indeterminate and imprecise, among them we can observe a more lethargic state and less desire to eat.

We must be careful, because pif in cats can also lead to problems of eye inflammation that ends in uveitis. Another non-determining sign affects the nervous system and translates into a very determined way of walking, as if the cat had tremors.

The most regrettable thing is that the cat’s condition can worsen very quickly and end with the worst of outcomes.

How to make a diagnosis of feline peritonitis

The truth is that, like everything with this disease, the diagnosis is very complicated. The truth is that there is no analytical capable of confirming the pif. The only thing that can corroborate the suspicion is biopsy damaged tissue.

But by the time the cat shows symptoms, the disease is usually too advanced to undergo a biopsy. It only remains to be able to examine it after its death and make the diagnosis a posteriori.

Anyway, if you have the belief that a pet suffers from feline peritonitis, you should go to the vet right away. Your doctor will examine you in depth and will include an eye and nervous system exam. Keep in mind that this condition requires many checks. The more signs that coincide with those suffering from pif, the possibility that it is this disease multiplies exponentially.

If the cat accumulates fluid in the pleural and / or abdominal cavities, it is most useful to analyze these fluids. If the amount of fluid is very small, an x-ray or ultrasound may be done. This is the way in which small samples of fluid accumulated in the cavities can be discovered.

Even with the presence of this yellowish liquid, it is not possible to confirm that it is a feline infectious peritonitis. Other diseases such as feline leukemia  or feline immunodeficiency can also present part of these symptoms. However, its presence in the cavities makes the diagnosis more feasible.

The most normal thing is that the diagnosis is reached by ruling out other diseases, among other things. The blood test can find other causes of the evil that afflicts the cat. But it can also discover certain pif-related disturbances.

Even so, until biopsy, the veterinarian will have to rely on assumptions: low lymphocytes, anemia, too much plasma protein, high range of bilirubin in the blood … As if all this were not difficult enough, many of these abnormalities are usually undetectable in the early stages of the disease.

The evil is incurable and the outcome is fatal. There is a vaccine but it is preceded by completely opposite medical opinions. The best thing to do to prevent pif in cats is to keep them at home and live, at most, with a colony of about five controlled specimens. And finally, avoid stressful situations, such as moving house.

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