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FIP, fatal with no cure, most common in young cats like Tubby, can affect cats of any age with compromised immune systems

FIP, fatal with no cure
Tubby’s life cut short to FIP, fatal with no cure

FIP, Fatal with no cure

FIP – Feline infectious peritonitis. It’s fatal with no cure, only palliative treatments. It’s hard to diagnose, and there are no vaccines yet available to prevent cats from contracting it. However, research is progressing, and we must be hopeful for future prevention, treatment and a cure.

I write this second post because it would be incomplete to talk about the loss of Tubby to FIP, something I’d never heard of before, without talking about the disease itself. As a writer, I’ll try to interpret my understanding of the disease, it’s symptoms, and it’s connection with the very common coronavirus. While I’m aware that there’s been some interesting research on the subject, in this post I only seek to share the basic information of the disease. As breakthroughs occur, I will seek to share them on Paws for Reflection.

As stated in my previous post, “While my experience with Tubby had led me to believe that it’s a disease of only young cats, I have found out that’s wrong. While most cats that develop FIP are under two years of age, cats of any age can get FIP. Cats with weak immune systems are most likely to get FIP, including kittens, cats already infected with feline leukemia virus (FeLV), and geriatric cats. The fact that he was about two-years old, led the specialists to suspect FIP.”

“FIP is not highly contagious. However, it is believed that FIP is a viral disease caused by certain strains of coronavirus. Most strains of the coronavirus, transmitted through cats saliva and feces do not cause FIP, and are referred to feline enteric coronavirus. It is believed that a possible mutation or aberrations of the immune response to the more common coronavirus are the cause of FIP.”

It is more common in multi-cat environments, places where the coronavirus, transmitted through cats saliva and feces, are present. It is believed that the coronavirus, called feline enteric coronavirus, may mutate. Another theory is that an aberration of the immune response to the virus causes FIP.

According to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine’s website, cats that are infected with a feline coronavirus generally do not show any symptoms during the viral infection, and an immune response occurs with the development of antiviral antibodies.

Their website also states:

  • In five to ten percent of the infected cats, either by a mutation of the virus or by an aberration of the immune response, the infection progresses into clinical FIP. The virus is then referred to as feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIPV).
  • With the assistance of the antibodies that are supposed to protect the cat, white blood cells are infected with virus, and these cells then transport the virus throughout the cat’s body.
  • This results in an intense inflammatory reaction around vessels in the tissues where these infected cells locate, often in the abdomen, kidney, or brain.
  • It is this interaction between the body’s own immune system and the virus that is responsible for the disease.
  • Once a cat develops clinical FIP involving one or many systems of the cat’s body, the disease is progressive and is almost always fatal.
  • Clinical FIP develops as an immune-mediated disease is unique, unlike any other viral disease of animals or humans.
  • FIP can occur weeks, months, or even years after initial exposure.

Symptoms of the coronavirus include:

  • Some cats may show mild upper respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal discharge. My Tubby would sneeze and then shake all over. I was always concerned that he might be having a mini seizure of some sort, but he always appeared fine.
  • Other cats may experience a mild intestinal disease and show symptoms such as diarrhea.

Symptoms can appear to be sudden because cats have an amazing ability to mask disease until they are in a crisis state. Once symptoms develop, the severity increases over the course of several weeks.

Initially Tubby responded to the steroids treatment, eating and drinking a bit better. He could crawl up onto the couch. He would snuggle with me every night. But in a matter of weeks, that reversed, and I made the painful decision to put him out of his misery. I remember well, it was President’s Day Weekend, when I cried every time I looked at him. I made the appointment Tuesday. He went in Wednesday, and his ashes and photo are in a glassed-in cabinet in the living room.

Other FIP info shared by Cornell’s website and other online sources include:

A cat with dry FIP will show ocular (eye) or neurological signs. The cat may develop difficulty in standing up or walking, becoming functionally paralyzed over time. Loss of vision is another possible outcome of the disease. Symptoms of the dry form generally include chronic weight loss, depression, anemia, and a persistent fever that does not respond to antibiotic therapy.

The effusive, wet, form of FIP is characterized by an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, or less commonly in the chest. Early in the disease, the cat may exhibit similar symptoms to the dry form, including weight loss, fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. The wet form of the disease often progresses rapidly, and the cat may quickly appear pot-bellied due to fluid accumulation in the abdomen. When the fluid accumulation becomes excessive, it may become difficult for the cat to breathe normally.

The specialists encouraged me to undergo more tests, but I had to question, why? There was no hope for survival. Unless more testing would help find a cure for this awful disease, why put him and me through hours of travel, and unnecessary pain and heartbreak. I could only think of my friend’s futile fight with cancer, and how much better it would have been for both of us, to accept the less than five percent survival rate as fact. I could not see mirroring this scenario with Tubby.

As I write this article some two years later, I would believe that Tubby had the dry form of FIP because of his difficulty walking, but then again, his organs were starting to shut down, so I guess I still don’t know. However, because I lost one of my best feline friends to this horrendous disease, I wanted to share my experiences and a little information about the disease. While there still is no cure, research is showing promise with glimmers of hope that there will be a cure or prevention for FIP.

Upon leaving Portland Veterinary Specialists with a terminal diagnosis, I put Tubby’s cat carrier in the front seat, and we drove five hours in a blinding snowstorm which progressively got worse (at times going 15 mph to keep from going out of the road) to get home. We both knew that no hotel or individual would accept someone with a very sick cat. Even today, I’d question whether cat friendly hotels would accept a sick cat.

If you’ve had a cat with FIP, or know a friend that has experienced the heartache of losing a cat to this, or another, fatal feline disease, please share.

24 responses to “FIP, fatal with no cure, most common in young cats like Tubby, can affect cats of any age with compromised immune systems”

  1. Josh Avatar

    Please don’t euthanize a cat without trying this:
    I will be happy to send you details of the treatment and how to administer it.

    1. BJ Avatar

      Interesting. Please send details of the treatment, and how much research has gone into it. Send through my contact form. Looking forward to it.

  2. Calah Barnes Avatar
    Calah Barnes

    We just lost our kitty Shadow to this horrible disease tonight. He just turned 1 not even a month ago. We had to put him down and that was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. He got diagnosed with FIP about 2 weeks ago, and ever since then he started going downhill. We did everything we could to try and save him.
    He was the best cat I have ever had. Every night he would sleep on my pillow with me, and then wake me up in the mornings with his paws when he thought it was time for me to get up. He would cuddle with us all the time and always be waiting at the door when we came home. I am going to miss my little Shadow so much.

    1. BJ Avatar

      FIP is absolutely aweful. I made it 3 weeks with Tubby. He was absolutely the sweetest cat It’s almost like they know they need to charm their humans for the short time they’ll be with us.

    2. Pam Avatar

      I write this as my heart is breaking and my little Finn is resting underneath my desk. Just today it was confirmed Finn definitely had been in contact with a FIP-infected cat(s). Unfortunately a horrible hoarding man who claims he was a sanctuary had Animal Control come out and seize over 100 cats and other animals. My Finn was one of them. Unfortunately it has mutated in my almost one-year-old kitty. He crawled into my heart immediately and brought so much love to my home. The short time I’ve had him since March 25, 2016 will leave a gapping hole for a long time. I know I need to make a decision, and I think it best for him that I make the horrible drive before it progresses and becomes worse. I believe his is dry as it is in his brain, with head bobbing, staring into space, lack of his kitten moxie and sometimes having problems walking (hind legs). I too feel I could go on and on, but this disease has shown me a whole other world of heartache. Finn’s life gave and it will continue to give as I can educate my friends about this death-sentence disease. They are devastated with me as cat lovers. If we can do one thing, think of them and not ourselves. Spare them unnecessary agony and let them cross the bridge with dignity. Love and prayers to all you good mommies and daddies of these precious lil lives who leave us way too early. >^..^<

      1. BJ Bangs Avatar
        BJ Bangs

        Kitty prayers are with you. FIP is a horrible disease which robs cats of living a long happy life.

  3. Melanie Avatar

    We just lost our Venus last night. She had just turned 1 on September 19th. We had our her blood tests done but were waiting on results. We received them last night and it looked as though her liver was failing. All of the results were pointing to FIP. She had been having trouble walking for the last 2 weeks, she seemed like she was hungry but when it came down to eating, she wouldn’t. I started to collect information about her medical history and knew her siblings had passed when they were very young. They believe it was also FIP. I am struggling with the chance that it wasn’t FIP. I didn’t want her to live in a cage with a feeding tube and possibly pass away by herself. We made the decision after hours of being at the vet that we needed to put her to sleep. I am feeling really guilty that I didn’t do enough. What if… I should have tried harder, what if she had something that could be medically fixed? As I read more and more, I think we rushed the decision and maybe I could have saved her. We were told it was the Dry FIP. I am absolutely heart broken. She had been having trouble eating, and then it looked like she was really clumsy when she was walking and then she started to miss when she was trying to jump on to things. We also started to notice that she wasn’t playing anymore and the other cats were rejecting her. The last few weeks were quite sad watching her deteriorate. She had lost 1 pound since she was weighed in March. Her weight had gone down to 4.2 pounds. She looked like she was a 5 month old kitten but looked old at the same time. Sorry for going on about this. I guess I just needed to write this all down. It doesn’t change the fact that I don’t have Baby Veenie with me.

    1. BJ Avatar

      So very sorry. FIP is a brutal disease. We pray for a cure, soon

  4. Guinevere Avatar

    My son’s cat, Peanut was diagnosed just about a week ago with FIP. He’s lost so much weight in about a two month period of time. I am used to treating dogs, but this is my first actual cat in the house. As I type this, he is sitting in the chair beside mine. He was on my bed last night and then on my son’s. He looks for my son to get home from school. His energy is not good and he looks like skeletor with fur.

    I will be calling the vet today to have him put down. BEFORE he gets to the point of so sick he can’t move. My belief based on what I’ve read is that this is ‘Dry’ FIP. I keep his nose clear and feed him with a syringe. He is such a loving cat. He will be missed. I’m told that this disease is most common in cats between birth and three years of age. Peanut isn’t even two yet.

    1. BJ Avatar

      I’m so sorry to hear about your Peanut. My Tubby wasn’t even 2 when he succumbed to FIP. His littermate Linus is over 7, and never had it. Don’t give up on cats because they are the best. With FIP, you are making the right decision. It was heart wrenching to put my Tubby down, but he was so weak that he couldn’t even jump onto the couch by himself. May he Rest in Peace.

  5. Kyle Avatar

    Today we took our kitten, Beau, to the vet to check on his abnormally large belly. We prayed that it was from over-eating, but we both knew he was still too skinny for that. Something had to be wrong. After some x-rays and then a fluid extraction, the vet was nearly certain it was FIP.

    Beau had a series of challenges from the beginning. He was an outdoor kitten (before us) and we were unsure of his background, but guessed he was about 4-5 months old when we brought him home from the shelter. He had worms and when we took him to the vet for his first check-up (after only having him for a couple weeks) he developed an upper respiratory infection. Similar to the one your described. With watery eyes, nasal discharges, and he was already sneezing often when we took him home. The vet gave him antibiotics and after about two weeks concluding the treatment he had a very large stomach.

    Beau was the best cat we could have hoped for. We spent a very long time looking for a kitten we “bonded” with. When we found him it was magical. He would come and sleep with us under covers or on our chests and head. He was super friendly with anyone and would curl up on their laps or wherever. He is the ideal companion.

    There needs to be more done about this disease. If my understanding is correct there are about 10 million cats in the world and only about 2,000 ever get this disease.

    1. BJ Avatar

      Thank you for sharing. My Tubby was the most lovable cat. He slept by my side every single night. It was heart breaking to lose him.
      The good thing is that there’s alot of research going into developing some treatments for this dreadful disease. It can’t be soon enough
      My heart goes out to you.

  6. Olga Borch Avatar
    Olga Borch

    I put my gorgeous boy to sleep today due to FIP. I’m distraught. I miss my best friend and I can’t believe his gone. I’ll do anything to have him back

    1. BJ Avatar

      My Tubby has been gone for three years. Even though I have added new felines to my kitty family, I still miss him. I, too, would give anything to have him back, romping and playing with his Siamese litter mate. May your gorgeous boy Rest In Peace, and be happily playing on the Rainbow Bridge. More research needs to go into FIP so that a vaccine can be developed to prevent this terrible fatal disease. Peace be with you.

  7. carolyn Avatar

    oh noooo i think our little birman has got it. She lives with our very old cat who is a moggie – does this mean we will lose both in one go? I am going to try the only virus killers i know – IVC and the bob beck zapper and maybe the tennant biomodulator if dr tennant thinks it may work – pray for us.

    1. BJ Avatar

      The virus is not necessarily contagious the way a cold is. So there’s hope. Talk with your vet, and indeed prayers are with you and your cats.

      1. Pam Avatar

        I just lost my 10 1/2 month old kitten 2 weeks ago to this disease. She was the best!! She must have known she didn’t have too much time because she was my shadow- she loved to talk and swish is beautiful tail and always at my side. Tinker was very playful with my other cats and see fit into our family immediately like she was meant to be here. My female bangle cat took her as her own.

        I didn’t even know that this disease existed until my vet took the blood samples and called to tell me the bad news. We thought it was some kind of infection because she ran a fever and dropped weight. My vet did everything to help her if we would have caught it sooner maybe she would have lived a bit longer. The vet also detected a mass in her tummy. I have had cats all my life and this little Tinker or Mookie as we called her was truly a gift I will miss her always.

  8. Joan Avatar

    I lost my 10 y/o Scout to Wet FIP in November of 2008. She and her brother had been with me since they were kittens. She went from the most beautiful pastel calico with attitude to just a shadow of herself in just 3 weeks in spite of palliative care. She was my girl and my constant shadow. Going on 4 years since I had to make the decision to let her go but it still stings. Her brother killmo remains relatively happy and healthy although he is a hyper T kitty. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he was diagnosed 3 months after Scout left us. He became extremely stressed over her death and I’m quite convinced her death triggered hyper T.

    I know the pain of losing a pet way too young to this awful disease that is FIP. You’d think in this day and age they would come up with a treatment for this. Research is being done but it’s still a long way until a treatment or cure is discovered. My heart still hurts when I think of the way Scout left us.

  9. Krithinidhi Mistry Avatar
    Krithinidhi Mistry

    I’m impressed 😀 I found your site on Ask poking around for something completely different- now I’m going to need to go back and go all the old posts XD Good bye my spare time this morning, but this was a spectacular find!

  10. dawn Avatar

    FIP is an awful disease. A friend of mine lost her Birman to it a few years ago. He was about 6 or 7 years old. Unfortunately, it seems to be more prevalent in Birmans than some other breeds. Thank you for sharing this information. It’s hard to have lose a pet, I’m sorry about Tubby.

  11. BJ Avatar

    Thank you so much for sharing. It’s must have been very hard loosing Neko. Sometimes it’s the quality of the time spent together, not the amount of it. It’s ironic how much impact this can have on our lives. And I’m very glad your other kitties fared ok, and didn’t contract the disease.

    I believe Tuby and his brother, Linus, came into my life for a reason. Perhaps, they were a divine gift, one I’ll be able to treasure forever.

  12. Ed Avatar

    It seems strange to talk about ‘mercy’ or ‘destiny’ in a world of so much cruelty and death, but I think every once in a while something or Someone intervenes and extends small mercies.

    I don’t know how my Neko contracted FeLV, or how he ‘slipped through the cracks’ at the shelter and escaped the instant euthanasia such a diagnosis would have brought. He was put up for adoption; we saw each other and bonded immediately. It was six weeks later we learned of his contagious disease — six weeks of iving in common with our entire clowder. Yet despite sharing food and water, litter boxes, and cuddle sessions, none of the others ever contracted it. Not even through the
    rest of the year, living in common with my freshly vaccinated and boosted cats — they all remained virus-free.

    Neko died late that year, a week before Christmas. I still scream and curse the injustice of it — such a young and wonderful cat who beat the odds in more ways than one, yet doomed before we ever met. But I can’t deny the unusual convergence of conditions that brought us together, and gave us that instant sense of belonging to each other. For that year it was my privilege to know him, to give him a loving home, and to be there until the end. Small mercies.

    I do know one thing — when we rescue these lost and lonely little ones, we are closer than ever to the image of God we were made to be. Who are we really, if not strays whom God is trying to rescue, to give mercy, and take home?

    1. Annemarie Avatar

      As I write this my sweet Bruno is in the final stages of Feline Leukemia Virus. He was only diagnosed 4 days ago. He is one of the homeless cats I care for and up until last week was a big, robust, healthy cat. He joined my colony of homeless cats 2 years ago and since then has brought so much joy and happiness. A friendlier cat you will not find. The vet figures he contracted it from his mother and the disease lay dormant until very recently. Bruno is approximately 3 1/2 years old and was neutered soon after arriving.
      I am heartbroken there’s nothing I can do but keep him comfortable and be with him in his final moments which will be very soon.
      Your post added to the many tears I have cried today. Bruno is the youngest cat I’ve lost to disease and the cruelty of it is beyond imagine.
      Thank you for your post and sharing Neko’s story. I came upon this site doing last minute research on FLV. I hope it’s okay to post on a site devoted to FIP. I’m so upset I had to share the news about my dear Bruno.

      1. BJ Avatar

        Thank you for your comments. No matter what the disease, FIP, FLV, or anything that takes our beloved kitties or pets away is painful, especially when they are young. When pets age, as with people, we expect for them to pass on. Their bodies wear out. But when they are young, it’s very hard. I still miss my Tubby. I’m sure Neko was a great kitty, one that will be missed dearly.

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