Feline Infectious Peritonitis - A Leading Cause of Feline Death

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Dr. Jennifer Creed provides veterinary care to pets as a locum veterinarian at the A Plus Petvet clinic in Oak Park, Illinois. Dr. Jennifer Creed also regularly delivers presentations at cat shows in order to foster the health and welfare of felines and feline breeds, such as the Ragdoll. Ragdolls are among the breeds most susceptible to contracting feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), a fatal virus and leading cause of infection-related deaths in cats.
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  • 1. By Dr Jennifer Creed
  • 2.  Dr. Jennifer Creed provides veterinary care to pets as a locum veterinarian at the A Plus Petvet clinic in Oak Park, Illinois. Dr. Jennifer Creed also regularly delivers presentations at cat shows in order to foster the health and welfare of felines and feline breeds, such as the Ragdoll. Ragdolls are among the breeds most susceptible to contracting feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), a fatal virus and leading cause of infection-related deaths in cats. FIP develops as an immune-mediated disease, and full manifestation causes the immune system to turn on itself. Antibodies within white blood cells spread the disease throughout the body and invoke severe inflammatory reactions in the cells of infected tissue in the kidney, abdomen, and brain.
  • 3.  Cats can contract FIP after becoming exposed to the feline coronavirus (FCoV), which spurs a response in the immune system and promotes the production of antibodies. In approximately 5 to 10 percent of cases, FCoV progresses into full FIP. Veterinarians divide FIP into two types: effusive (wet) and non-effusive (dry). Effusive FIP leads to significant blood vessel damage and the leakage of fluids into the abdomen or chest cavity, which can cause stomach swelling and difficulty breathing. Considered the more chronic form, non-effusive FIP results in the development of vague clinical symptoms such as weight loss, dulling of the coat, yellowed eyelids or nose, and discoloration of the eyes. Additional symptoms associated with both forms include fever, appetite loss, and depression.
  • 4.  Due to their ability to mask illnesses when unwell, cats generally exhibit noticeable symptoms only after they fall into a crisis state. The wide array of symptoms associated with FIP makes each case unique, and veterinarians often experience difficultly in diagnosing it. Furthermore, vets can only perform diagnostic tests to confirm the disease postmortem. However, they can test cats for FCoV antibodies that cause FIP. While no treatment exists, pet owners can take steps to prevent infection by maintaining a clean environment and limiting possible exposure to FCoV.
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