Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tuesday, Feb. 16

Last night at BOXES, we had a discussion about FIP. I know it was also recorded but I've had quite a few people ask me now if I would put in the blog, so I shall.  It's not exactly as it is on the recording because I added a few things in while talking, but for the most part, this is it:

FIP   Feline Infectious Peritonitis

I am not an expert in FIP at all, but I have had a lot (too much) experience with it.  I understand there’s a lot of talk going on about FFRC and FIP.  That is fine and that shows concern. So…let’s address this right here openly and honestly.

FIP is a lethal and incurable disease that’s made worse by its difficult diagnosis. FIP is difficult to diagnose, not possible to treat and almost always fatal.  This dreaded disease sends chills down the backs of rescue/shelter people and catteries.  Truly no three letters have more power to strike fear into the hearts of cat lovers than F, I and P.  It is the most dreaded disease in veterinary medicine and a big threat to a cat’s health and survival. There is much not known about this disease which makes it even harder.  There are a few things known about it but there are far more questions than there are answers.

What causes FIP?  FIP is caused by a virus—a common strain of coronavirus. ALL cats have the corona virus in them. It’s what the cat’s body does with this corona virus that makes all the difference. There are 2 types of this virus which cannot be distinguished from each other in lab tests. One is type does not cause the disease or is only mildly virulent. This infection with this virus does not produce any signs other than maybe a very mild diarrhea.

The other type is virulent—this is the cause of FIP. It is believed that FIP occurs when the corona mutates to virulent or active FIP in the cat.  What causes this mutation is unknown.

So, what that means is FIP develops when a usually harmless strain of corona mutates in the cat in a way that gives the virus the ability to replicate itself in some of the cat’s white cells. When the immune system mounts a defense against the invaded white cells, the immune system ends up damaging its own protective cells and tissue. The result causes damage to multiple systems at once and ultimately leads to death.

Cats in multiple cat environments are at much higher risk for corona infection than solo cats because they are more likely to be exposed to the feces of infected cats.

How is the virus transmitted?  Corona /fip can be found in the saliva and stool of infected cats. FIP may possibly be transmitted across the placenta. The significance of this is not known. The FIP corona can live in the environment 3-7 weeks. After 3 weeks though, the number of virus particles present is probably too small to cause infection. Many disinfectants will kill the virus, including bleach, which is what FFRC uses.

FIP most frequently strikes young cats. It’s a quiet disease at first. It will cause weight loss, poor appetite and deterioration of body condition. There are no proven treatments for the condition. Diagnosing FIP can be challenging.

There are 2 types of FIP---wet and dry. DRY FIP develops areas of inflammation called granulomas. The granulomas can develop in the abdomen and in other areas.  ALL dry FIP’s IF they live long enough will slide into being wet FIP.  Wet FIP causes damage and leaking blood vessels in the abdomen or chest. The abdomen or chest fills with fluid, breathing may be difficult. Wet FIP tends to develop much more rapidly.

Diagnosing FIP is a challenge. The condition is often diagnosed based upon clinical suspicion when a young cat develops unexplained systems consistent with FIP. They may have changes in their blood cell lines and blood protein levels. Blood tests for coronavirus antibodies may offer some insight into the diagnosis, but the blood tests cannot differentiate between the 2 forms of coronavirus. The only 100% way to diagnose this is thru a necropsy.
As was said it’s difficult to diagnose FIP. In an attempt to try to make the best diagnosis that can be made while the cat is still alive, there are a few criteria that can be followed:  Low lymphocytes, positive corona test, elevated globulins in the blood.  As you can see, testing is not made easy. Despite the claims made by some labs and test manufacturers, there is currently no test that can distinguish between the good and bad corona virus.

How is FIP treated? There is no cure for FIP.  A survivor of FIP is very rare. Cats can be given supportive care and possibly extend her life for a short amount of time. Because the dry form of FIP progresses more slowly, cats with this form can sometimes live longer than those with the wet form. Cats with FIP can be treated with prednisolone. This sometimes gives a bit of relief to the symptoms for a short period of time. Other supportive care can be appetite stimulates, antibiotics, vitamins, fluids, quality nutrition. If the cat becomes clearly distressed, however, euthanasia is the most humane approach.

Which cats are more likely to develop FIP?  As you would imagine, the cats most likely to develop FIP are those with the weakest immune systems. The largest number of FIP cases occurs in young cats. FIP is rarely seen in cats between 3 and 10 years old. However, starting at 10-12 years of age, the immune systems of these older cats apparently decline, making them more susceptible. This does not always hold true though. Think about 2 FFRC cats when we had our FIP scare last year---Trucker and Camvi. Both are young and both very immune compromised. Neither became sick.

It all sounds pretty hopeless, doesn’t it?  Truthfully, it is indeed very hard for me and for you.  Up until last fall, we only had to deal with the wet FIP.  There are so many studies going on in regards to  learning more about this horrible disease. It’s still a disease that raises it’s ugly head at us and has very few real concrete answers.  Some changes have been made in the FIP world.

FIP is still thought to be a disease that is caused by the MUTATION of the corona virus. This means that for some bizarre unknown reason that corona virus changes from good to bad.  It was thought that there was no correlation or transmission between cats. So…..we didn’t have to worry about this particular disease in that respect.

But to be truthfully honest, I do not believe that as the whole truth. We have seen here at FFRC, a whole litter getting FIP. This to me shows a horizontal transmission for FIP.  We have seen this past fall,  where we had 4 unrelated cats get the dry form of FIP. This has to also be horizontal transmission.  And to complicate things more, all 4 of these cats showed very different symptoms.
I know there’s a worry “out there” amongst you about FIP and FFRC.  Please…..it’s fine and healthy to talk amongst yourself, just please be sure your facts are correct. The worse thing anyone can do is to speculate without knowledge behind it.

What can we do here at FFRC? We learned a few things about this from this past fall.  Remember when Fancy arrived? I said right from the start, something wasn’t right. We treated her and medicated her, things seemed better and then she plummeted. In the future, any cat that does not “seem right”, will NOT be put in the general population. Their quarantine time would be much longer than normal.  Another good way to help is to keep litterboxes extra clean. Here at FFRC, we are very good about this but will up this cleaning even more. Making sure we continue doing our second FIV/leukemia tests.  The bottom line is observing observing and more observing.  Cleaning is also important. As our vets have said, we probably would have experienced much more diseases had it not been for our good cleaning.

But what else can we do? Please remember, we do not normally get the cream of the crop here at FFRC. We give it our all to help all the incoming cats to feel good and to feel love. I know there’s a worry out there in our viewer audience. Should you not adopt from FFRC?  Whatever you decide, please at least don’t criticize us. We are a rescue and we try our hardest.  Did you know there are at least 40 different viruses that cats can get? Many of these come in thru our door. FFRC can do a LOT of good things---we have done this long enough to know how to treat so many awful things. We know how to make the combination of antibiotics work, we know how to help those with calici and the herpes viruses. We have our protocol from our vets for so many of the bad things that come in thru our doors. But give me a cat with FIP and I cannot help even a little bit. The biggest thing now is stopping it at our door before it can spread.

I know right now there are a few cats “out there” that we have adopted out that are sick and possibly have FIP. For this, my heart terribly aches. Please know that I would never ever let any cat out these doors if I had one split hesitation of their health. I would not do that. Some days I feel terribly guilty for when an FFRC cat becomes sick in their new homes. 

Knowing that FIP is such a horrible thing to figure out, do we stop taking cats in?  Do we just shut our doors? Do we not take in any more pregnant cats? Do we put all the cats in cages? Or put 4-5 cats in each room area and take no more than that? Do we euthanize all cats that come in that appear “off”? What do we do?  How will this year be different?  All I can say is that I try my best. And I mourn deeply with the families that have lost a cat to FIP.  This is one thing I cannot fight. I understand your worries and your concerns. Please know that I am always open to discussions. I’d rather meet something head on than to think people are talking and possibly not having the correct info. And remember---in the FIP world, so much is uncertain.  I rarely say the word hate, but simply put, I do hate this disease.