Feline Infectious Peritonitis ( f.i.p ) is a perplexing viral disease caused by certain strains of the feline coronavirus. These coronaviruses primarily reside in the gastrointestinal tract and are typically harmless, known as feline enteric coronavirus (FeCV). Cats infected with FeCV rarely exhibit initial symptoms, experiencing brief bouts of mild respiratory issues or diarrhea. They usually generate an immune response, developing antibodies against the virus within 7-10 days. However, about 10% of FeCV-infected cats undergo mutations that turn the virus aggressive, infecting white blood cells and spreading it throughout their body as the FIPV variant. The interaction between the immune system and the virus triggers the development of FIP. Unfortunately, FIP can be progressive and often fatal without therapy.
Are all cats at risk? Any cat harboring FeCV faces potential FIP risk, with young cats being more vulnerable. Around 70% of FIP cases are diagnosed in cats under 1.5 years old, and 50% in cats less than 7 months old. Transmission often occurs when infected queens pass the virus to their kittens, especially when kittens are 5-8 weeks old. Certain factors, such as housing density, breed, gender, and age, contribute to susceptibility, though the reasons aren't entirely clear.
Recognizing FIP symptoms:
Most FeCV-exposed cats remain asymptomatic. Some might show mild upper respiratory symptoms like sneezing and watery eyes, or mild gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea. FIP development is unpredictable and might happen weeks, months, or years after initial exposure to FeCV. The disease manifests in two forms: effusive ( wet FIP ) and non effusive ( dry FIP ). Cats infected with FIPV generally exhibit loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, and fever. The signs of the non effusive form, which includes neurological issues, progress more slowly than the effusive form where fluid accumulates in the abdomen and chest cavity, leading to breathing difficulties.
Presently, diagnosing FIP can be complicated. Various tests can detect the virus itself, but none are foolproof. Antibody titers can't distinguish between FeCV and FIPV exposure. High titers in young cats with fever often lead to presumptive FIP diagnosis, particularly if fluid accumulation occurs in body cavities.
Historically, FIP was considered untreatable. Recent antiviral drug advancements, like GS-441524, offer solutions to FIP, especially for the effusive form. Preventing FeCV infection is key. Maintaining healthy living conditions and minimizing density can help. FeCV is contagious through feces and saliva, while FIPV isn't, as it's a mutated variant. Maintaining overall feline health, vaccination against other viruses, and proper hygiene decrease FIP likelihood.
In conclusion, FIP remains a complex challenge in the feline world. GS-441524 and other advancements offer treatment potential, particularly for the effusive form. While uncertainties persist, ongoing research and careful management can provide better outcomes for cats diagnosed with FIP. It's essential for cat owners to work closely with veterinarians, considering the risks, benefits, and evolving treatment options.