FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis)

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Filed in Cats, Health

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a very contagious, usually deadly disease, and uninfected household cats are at great risk of becoming infected once a cat is diagnosed. An FIP vaccination has been developed, but possible side effects have made its use controversial.

There are two forms of the FIP disease. When a cat has the "dry" form of FIP, small, inflamed lesions spread throughout the body's organs. The symptoms of this form are vague, usually consisting of persistent, chronic fever, weight loss, depression and neurological signs.

When a cat has the "wet" form of FIP, fluid accumulates in the chest and abdominal cavities. The cat may have fever, weight loss, decreased appetite, depression, abdominal swelling and difficulty breathing.

FIP occurs primarily in cats between six weeks and five years of age, although most victims are younger than 2 years old. Sometimes pregnant cats are infected, resulting in stillborn or weak newborn kittens. Older cats can become more susceptible to FIP when their immune systems weaken.

A veterinarian can run an FIP blood test that will give a very strong indication as to whether or not a cat has FIP.

Cats with the "wet" form of FIP have a characteristic sticky yellow fluid, which can be taken from the abdomen or the chest. There is no specific treatment for this ultimately fatal disease, other than general supportive care such as proper nutrition, antibiotics and intravenous fluids to make your pet more comfortable.

The FIP vaccine is given painlessly with a special plastic dropper in the cat's nostril, rather than by needle injection. In addition to the FIP vaccine, proper care of cats and kittens can help prevent the disease. FIP is transmitted by contact with urine, saliva or feces of infected animals. It is very important to minimize the contact that your cat has with strange or obviously ill cats.

Other general preventive measures include keeping your cat's living quarters, litter box, and food and water dishes as clean as possible. Also, be sure your cat is tested for the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline AIDS (FIV), and receives all recommended vaccinations -- including the FIP vaccine if appropriate -- during an annual physical examination by your veterinarian.

Source: Ask the Vet, reprinted with permission by Pet Food Express. Ask the Vet is published by Veterinarian's Best, Inc., PO Box 4459, Santa Barbara, CA, 93103.

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