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Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a cornavirus affecting the upper respiratory system and gastrointestinal tract. The most well known of these virus types, is the widely spread SARS virus which has attracted worldwide critical acclaim; since the disease has transferred over from animal to human.
There are many cornavirus that affect cats and most are not that harmful. These virus strains all grow and attack the white blood cells after which the virus can travel through the entire body.
As the name implies Feline Infectious Peritonitis is contagious and can be spread to other cats, but not other species.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis is believed to be a mutation of the cornavirus. Only about 1 in 5,000 cats will get it but only about one out of twenty cats have a chance for survival. The virus is airborne and can live up to three weeks in the atmosphere.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis is a fatal disease that will affect various organs of the body. What happens in this disease is that infected cells in the immune system takes a severe reaction to the virus and become inflamed.
There is no consensus about the incubation period of this virus at this time. The symptoms range from making their appearance in a few weeks in clinical tests, to months or years in household cats. Thus, the virus may be dormant for an indefinite period of time.
Infected cats contract the disease by being in contact with other cats. They can get it from shared bowls, litter boxes, toys and other surfaces. They also transmit the virus through saliva and feces.
Symptoms will ultimately differ depending upon the organ or area that is affected. The symptoms include:
Difficulty in breathing
Excessive water intake
Difficulty in walking or standing
There are two forms of virus,
The dry form (non-effusive) form eats away at the vital organs, and if the cat has not already expired it will advance into the second form.
The effusive (wet form) will affect the organs of the body but in addition it will cause fluid to accumulate in the chest or abdomen
In turn there are three stages of the disease.
The initial stage is when the cat contracts the virus. The feline will be very contagious at this point.
The dormant stage does not produce any symptoms and the cat is not contagious.
The Final stage is the chronic stage; symptoms are at their worst and continue until death. The cat is again contagious at this stage.
The disease can be very difficult to diagnose, however the effusive form of the disease is easier to detect because of the fluid buildup.
Diagnosis can include
Cornavirus tests - checks for the presence of antibodies in the body. However it will not isolate the disease because Feline Immunodeficiency virus could also be the cause. The test must be used in conjunction with others.
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Test - is a new test that can isolate the antibodies specific to Feline Infectious Peritonitis.
Serum Protein Levels test
White blood cell count
Abdominal/Chest Fluid Analysis
Fine Needle Aspiration of the Liver or Kidneys - where a few cells from the liver or kidney is extracted to determine if there is inflammation
Organ biopsy is used sparingly because of the condition of the already sick cat.
The virus can be eradicated from surfaces around the house simply by disinfecting with bleach. This way you will make your home safer for your other feline pets.
Administrating medications and removing fluids from the chest and abdomen can provide some comfort but is not a cure.
Even though getting your cat to the veterinarian as soon as you see any symptoms is the best course of action, the disease is fatal, the cat's health continues to deteriorate and the only humane thing to do is euthanize.
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