Feline Peritonitis
Cause and Transmission

Feline Peritonitis is caused by a strain of the cat corona virus called the Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus (FIPV).

There is another strain of the coronavirus called the Feline Enteric Coronavirus which causes symptoms that are restricted to the gastrointestinal tract.

It is similar to FIP, but the development and origin of the disease is different and death from enteric coronavirus is uncommon.

about feline infectious peritonitis

FIP is a fatal infectious disease and is not limited to domestic cats.

The virus has been found in both large and small wild cats like lions, cheetahs, leopards, mountain lions, caracals and lynx.

Interestingly, many domestic cats are infected with the coronavirus, but fortunately, only 5 - 10 % of cats actually develop clinical symptoms of the disease.

There are many feline diseases, but what makes this one unique is that the coronavirus invades the white blood cells which are meant to protect the cat fro disease.

The infected white blood cells then carry the virus to the cat's vital organs (e.g. the kidneys, liver, pancreas and brain) causing a severe inflammatory reaction.

In essence it is the reaction between the cat's own immune system and a mutation of the coronavirus that causes feline peritonitis.

how the disease is spread

The virus is shed in the feces and saliva of cats that are infected by the feline infectious peritonitis virus.

It can also be transmitted by direct cat-to-cat contact during self-grooming and indirect contact where cats share litter boxes, bedding, food and water bowls and toys.

The mode of entry is usually via the oral route. The most common mode of spread is via ingestion, but the virus can also be spread via inhalation.

It has also suggested that there may be trans-placental transmission, i.e. from the pregnant queen to her unborn kittens.

cats at greatest risk

Cats of all ages, sex or breed can contract feline infectious peritonitis.

However, there are cats that are at greater risk than others:

  • Cats and kittens raised in multi-cat households like breeding catteries and shelters
  • Kittens may contract the disease from their FIPV-infected mothers
  • Kittens that are weaned too early and those that experience undue 'situation stress' as a result of early homing may also be placed at risk of developing this and other feline diseases.
  • Cats that carry any feline coronavirus can develop FIP.
  • The incidence of infectious peritonitis is greatest in cats between 6 months to 2 years.
  • Cats and kittens with a compromised immune system
  • Cats with feline leukemia have an increased risk of contracting FIP.
  • Some pedigreed (purebred) cats appear to be at greater risk of contracting feline peritonitis, which may indicate that genetics plays a role.

Information about the diagnosis, the symptoms, prevention and treatment of feline infectious peritonitis visit the page dedicated to this fatal cat disease.

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