Newsletter European Advisory Board On Cat Diseases
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What is feline infectious peritonitis?
- Feline coronavirus (FCoV) is the causative agent of infectious feline peritonitis (FIP).
- Infections caused by FCoV occur in all environments, but above all they are common in environments with a high cat population density.
- FIP will only develop in a certain proportion of infected cats.
- Cats that have suffered stress are susceptible (adoption, neutering, shelter).
- FIP occurs mainly in cats aged <1 and in environments with a high population density of cats.
- Purebred cats seem to be more susceptible.
- FCoV can survive for about 2 months in a dry environment
- FCoV is easily inactivated with cleaning and disinfecting agents.
- The main source of FCoV infection is the faecal secretions of infected cats. Transmission of infection through saliva or during pregnancy is rare.
- FCoV can also be transmitted indirectly (waste trays, shoes, clothing)
- Cats begin to shed the virus within the first week after infection and continue to shed for the following weeks or months, sometimes throughout their lives.
- FIPs cause FCoV variants (mutants) that multiply more rapidly in macrophages and monocytes.
- The development of FIP depends on the viral load and the immune response of the cat.
- Most FCoV-infected cats remain healthy or show only mild signs of enteritis.
- Common initial symptoms of FIP are fluctuating fever, weight loss, anorexia, and depression.
- As the disease progresses, FIP manifests itself
- in its effusive (wet) form, characterized by chronic inflammation of the membranes (accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, thoracic and / or pericardial effusion) and inflammation of the vessels;
- in its non-fusion (dry) form, characterized by granulomatous lesions of various organs (enlargement of the kidneys, chronic diarrhea, swollen lymph nodes).
- These forms are considered to be clinical extremes of the same condition.
- Symptoms in the eyes include uveitis, corneal clots ("lamb fat") in the anterior chamber of the eye, perivascular retinal infiltrate and pyogranulomatous chorioretinitis.
- Neurological symptoms (in ~ 10 %) include ataxia, hyperesthesia, eye twitching, convulsions, behavioral changes, and cranial nerve disorders.
- Clinical symptoms are highly variable and vary depending on the distribution of the lesions.
- There is no non-invasive test available to confirm the disease in its dry form.
- Laboratory findings suggestive of FIP include lymphopenia, non-regenerative anemia, elevated serum total protein, hyperglobulinemia, low albumin / globulin ratio, high α-1 acid glycoprotein levels, and high FCoV antibody titers.
- The high value of FCoV antibody titers alone is not significant for diagnosis.
- FIP fusions show positive Rivalt test results, high protein values and low albumin / globulin ratio and neutrophil and macrophage content.
- Cells positive for FCoV antigen (immunofluorescence, immunohistochemistry on biopsy material from pyogranulomas or cell sediment from accumulated abdominal fluid) certified in specialized laboratories will be confirmed by FIP.
- FCoV RT-PCR of blood samples is not sufficient to make a diagnosis: FIP-inducing mutants and "normal" FCoV cannot be distinguished.
What to do when the disease occurs
- The FIP forecast is very poor. The average survival time after diagnosis of the disease is 9 days.
- Euthanasia should only be considered after the final diagnosis of the disease.
- Supportive care is aimed at suppressing inflammation and the damaging immune response, usually corticosteroids. Nevertheless, its benefits have not been proven.
- In a household where a cat has undergone FIP, it is recommended to wait 2 months before bringing a new cat. Other cats in the same household are probably FCoV carriers.
- FIP is a problem of joint breeding of several cats (rearing of young and shelters), it only rarely occurs in domestic cats and in free-range cats.
- A reduction in the risk of contamination can be achieved by maintaining strict hygiene and keeping cats in small, well-adapted groups, whose waste trays are often cleaned and where cats have free movement.
- FCoV-secreting cats can be determined by quantitative real-time RT-PCR screening of faecal secretions, but several samples must be taken (4 times over 3 weeks).
- FIP is not a component of basic vaccines.
- There is only one (intranasal) FIP vaccine available in the US and some European countries.
- The vaccine is not effective in cats that have already been infected with FCoV, but may be useful in seronegative kittens before they enter the endemic environment.
- If vaccination is considered, the first dose should be given before the age of 16 weeks.