What are Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is most often found in young cats or multi-cat households where it is spread through feces and airborne contaminants. Fatalities most often occur in cats who are young or have a weakened immune system.
Coronavirus in cats, or feline infectious peritonitis, is a viral disease caused by certain strains of feline coronavirus. Though most strains of feline coronavirus do not cause the disease to occur, some strains can cause symptoms that range from mild to severe. These strains may also mutate in the cat's body, becoming feline infectious peritonitis virus. This virus attacks the immune system and vital organs, resulting in the death of the cat.
Symptoms of Coronavirus in Cats
Symptoms of feline infectious peritonitis depend on the type of strain of coronavirus that the cat has contracted, the age of the cat, the cat's immune system and what specific organs are attacked by the virus. The virus can be one of two types, wet or dry, with symptoms depending on the type of feline infectious peritonitis the cat has contracted.
- Fever that doesn't respond to pain reliever or antibiotics
- Weight loss
- Anorexia (lack of appetite)
- Watery eyes
- Nasal discharge
- Abdominal distension (nonpainful abdominal swelling)
- Breathing difficulties
- Fluid in chest cavity
- Granulomas that form on different organs of the body
- Fever that doesn't respond to pain relievers or antibiotics
- Poor growth (in young kittens)
- Eye inflammation
- Neurological symptoms, which include loss of sight, loss of balance or inability to properly run/walk due to loss of coordination
Causes of Coronavirus in Cats
Feline coronavirus is fairly common among cats and is transmitted through the feces of other infected cats or from breathing in contaminants. Feline infectious peritonitis is caused by the feces or airborne contaminants of certain strains of the coronavirus. Some types of feline coronaviruses can mutate and attack the white blood cells, which then carry the disease throughout the body. When this mutation occurs, it causes feline infectious peritonitis virus.
Diagnosis of Coronavirus in Cats
Feline infectious peritonitis is difficult to diagnose as there is no definitive test that can determine if a cat has a mild form of coronavirus or feline infectious peritonitis. The symptoms can also mimic other diseases or viruses, making it more difficult for veterinarians to diagnose properly.
The veterinarian will ask for the cat's health history, which includes the cat's symptoms, when symptoms first began, and if the cat lives with other cats at home or was frequently placed in a kennel. The veterinarian will examine the cat, listening to the cat's breathing and looking for a distended abdomen.
Labs, which include a complete blood count and an ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test, will need to be done. The complete blood count will look for white blood cells that are indicative of an infection while an ELISA test will show the presence of any coronavirus antibodies. A sample of fluid may be taken from the thorax or abdomen for further testing. Additionally, a fecal test using a stool sample may also be performed to detect the virus. Because these tests only show if the coronavirus is present and not if it's mutated, however, the veterinarian will diagnose the cat with feline infectious peritonitis if it doesn't have the symptoms of other viruses or diseases.
Treatment of Coronavirus in Cats
Most strains of coronavirus don't require treatment as the cat's immune system will produce antibodies against the virus. Unfortunately, there is no cure if the cat has developed feline infectious peritonitis. Care is centered on keeping the cat comfortable and prolonging its life for a few months.
If the cat is diagnosed with the non-effusive type of feline infectious peritonitis, medications will be prescribed. Antibiotics will help kill bacteria, immunosuppressants will prevent the virus from mutating, and anti-inflammatory medications will reduce the pain the cat is experiencing and reduce inflammation throughout the body.
Recovery of Coronavirus in Cats
Feline infectious peritonitis is fatal in approximately 95 percent of cases. In some cases, the prescribed medications can keep the infection dormant, or in remission, for several months. It's important to follow up with the veterinarian so medications can be evaluated for effectiveness and changed, if needed, in order to allow the cat to be comfortable.
Though there is a vaccine available to prevent feline infectious peritonitis, its use is not recommended by the American Association of Feline Practitioners as it hasn't proven effective in preventing the virus in all cases.
The best way to keep coronavirus from spreading to other cats is to vigilantly clean the cat's food and water dishes, regularly disinfect the cat's living space and keep sick cats away from other cats in multi-cat households. Kittens should be kept away from other cats, other than the mother, to prevent them from contracting the virus.
Coronavirus Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
my neighbor and I got 3 cats from the same cattery. She got 2, one from 2 different litters living in the same house. One kitten was the runt and they recently found he has coronavirus in his stool. He is quite ill and they are monitoring him for if the virus has possibly mutated into FIP. (Although he was originally FIP negative)
My kitten was from a different litter but same house, and currently healthy. My question is, is it likely my cat has coronavirus but it is dormant? If she has dormant coronavirus, do we need to avoid getting another kitten? We were looking to adopt a second cat but would not want to put another at risk. Thanks
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My cat came up positive in a abdominal fluid test for FIP but is not showing any symptoms. He does have fluid in his belly but that is it. He eats, drinks, solid stool, after taking antibiotics his fever has stopped for days now and is active as can be. My doctor insists that it is FIP but we are convinced other wise. We want to know a different opinion
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP caused by coronavirus) is a difficult diagnosis to make and is usually a diagnosis of exclusion; the presence of coronavirus on a diagnostic test cannot differentiate between a non-virulent strain compared to a virulent strain, therefore symptoms are checked and a differential diagnosis is done to determine other possible causes of the symptoms and are tested individually, once all the conditions on the differential diagnosis comes back as negative, a presumptive diagnosis of exclusion is made of FIP. The main symptoms of effusive (wet) FIP are distended abdomen due to fluid, breathing difficulties, loss of appetite and depression (not all symptoms may show). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Uno - Cat - 10 yrs old just got a diag of the same... The person taking care of him let the litter boxes fill so HIGH that he started peeing, on the floor - I was not hired 2 take care of him as I have in the past where I cleaned the 4 cat litter boxes EVERY day. Guess $300 was 2 much 2 pay 4 16 days while the owner was gone - I DID sneak over & saw how the boxes were NOT cleaned... I said - SELF - he did not hire me so Y should I do that... I should have cuz I love his cat & the cat absolutely loves me....loves me When I drive in the driveway - no comes 2 me & PURRS & PURRS cuz his owner neglecks him a LOT! He should NOT have him & I guess he won't in a month or so! & NOW he's going 2 DIE... I'm SO awfwul SAD
I am curious to know if the cat mentioned above is making a recovery or otherwise. Our cat has been diagnosed with coronavirus but still has a very good apetite - however he has lost weight somehow and is not so happy and playful. He is now showing a fuller belly with possibly liquid building up inside but eats so much it's odd... This is hard to accept there is no cure and we wonder if he's in pain or what will happen next before making the hard decision to let him go...
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