Feline infectious peritonitis is highly transmittable from a new mom to her infant kittens. This devastating illness affects the immune system of cats. If infected, your new brood of fluffy kitties will become very ill and will probably have an unfortunate early death.
Feline infectious peritonitis is difficult to diagnose, since symptoms mimic signs of other illnesses. This viral infection is caused by the coronavirus. White blood cells that are supposed to ward off illness instead become carriers of the virus themselves. These infected carrier cells then carry the viral strain all over your feline's body via her blood. As it passes through, a massive damaging inflammatory response occurs around the brain and vital organs. Because FIP progresses slowly, by the time your precious kittens show clinical signs of the illness, it is probably already too late.
Risk of Infection
Diagnosing feline infectious peritonitis is difficult, since laboratory tests aren't foolproof. By the time the vet gets a positive diagnosis, your feline may already be pregnant. The most common way for kitties to become infected with coronavirus and develop feline infectious peritonitis is by catching the virus from their mother, explains the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Typically, kittens become infected between five and eight weeks after birth.
Feline infectious peritonitis occurs in a wet or dry form. Both infections result in a high fever that doesn't respond to medications, loss of appetite, weight loss and extreme fatigue. The wet form of FIP causes fluid buildup in the abdomen and chest, resulting in difficulty breathing and an extended belly. In its dry form, feline infectious peritonitis affects various organs. Symptoms depend on which organ becomes saturated with the virus. For example, if it attacks the kidneys, you may notice that the kittens are drinking and urinating more than normal.
There is no treatment for the virus, only a possibility to treat symptoms and slightly prolong your kitten's life. Sadly, feline infectious peritonitis winds up being fatal more than 95 percent of the time, the ASPCA reports. There is a controversial FIP vaccine available. However, the ability to fully protect your furry family members with a vaccination is unlikely and many vets opt not to carry the vaccine. The risk of death from feline infectious peritonitis in households is rare -- only about one in 5,000 cats pass away from the disease. Shelters and breeders tend to have a much higher incidence of FIP. If you're adopting a new feline, have her thoroughly checked out beforehand. Your veterinarian may be able to detect some of the warning signs of the illness.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.