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I’ve been hearing a lot about FIP recently. I know it’s a virus that causes upper respiratory infections but what is it exactly? Can cats be vaccinated for it? How can we prevent our furbabies from getting it?

FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) is a virus that originates in the cat’s intestines as a Coronavirus (a essentially benign virus that most cats carry). For reasons we have yet to understand a particular Coronavirus particle in a particular cat can mutate and become the FIP virus. This mutated virus can affect any organ (eyes, brain, kidneys, liver…..) and eventually become fatal. The virus classically presents in 2 forms (the wet form with fluid formation in the chest or abdomen) or the dry form (nodules form in any organ and are much harder to diagnose). In addition, some cats decline rapidly while some struggle for months to over a year. Given all this variability the vaccine produced years ago was found to be useless. Stress has been found to promote the disease (hence patient’s seeming to become ill after adoption or routine surgeries such as a spay or neuter). The mutated virus is not contagious. Except for some experimental medications, there is not a reliable treatment other than supportive care for FIP.

I hope this is helpful,

Christine Simon D.V.M.

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