What Cat Owners Need to Know about FIP

In August 2021, Dreama lost her cat Max to FIP. On a Friday evening he wasn’t his playful, fun-loving self and had stopped eating. Dreama took him to the vet first thing Monday morning, where, after ruling out other medical issues, they determined he had FIP. By the end of the week, Dreama had to make the difficult decision to say goodbye to Max. She was devastated!

This horrible disease also affected Yogi, adopted by Sharon Gabrielli; Petey, adopted by Barbara Funke; and Gracie, adopted by Sue Rinker. Fortunately they were diagnosed early enough to receive treatment and after a long, roller coaster ride for all of them they are each currently doing well.

What is FIP?

It is a fatal infection and a leading cause of death in young cats for which no effective preventive or treatment is available. FIP is a very difficult disease to deal with because there are no clinical signs that are specific for the diagnosis of FIP, and no simple blood test to confirm a diagnosis.

What are the signs of FIP?

With Effusive, or “wet” FIP, the clinical sign is the accumulation of fluid within the abdomen or chest which can cause breathing difficulties. Other symptoms include lack of appetite, fever, weight loss jaundice and diarrhea. Non-effusive, or “dry” FIP also presents with these symptoms but there is usually not an accumulation of fluid. Typically, a cat with dry FIP will show ocular or neurological signs like difficulty in standing or walking with functional paralysis developing over time. Loss of vision is another possible outcome.

What is the treatment for FIP?

There have been significant recent developments in the management of this once fatal condition. Hope came in 2020-2021, when several new anti-viral drugs became legally available initially in Australia, then the UK and now via export to multiple countries around the world. Experience using these drugs has shown that most cats can be successfully treated (response is around 85%). The treatment course is long at 84 days, and most cats can be treated at home with tablets/liquid, but if very unwell, they may require the initial treatment in the veterinary clinic with injectable anti-viral drugs.

To learn more about FIP, please visit International Cat Care (icatcare.org).

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