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Corona Virus, FIP in multicat household

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Our question this week was:

We have four cats, two males and two females ranging in age from 13 months to 5 years. One male and one female are littermates. Three of the four carry the corona virus. The female littermate does not. I have reached a point where my veterinarian of the past 32 years has me totally petrified about this condition and is constantly throwing statistics at me. We rescued the 13-month-old baby and we did not know his blood count. It turned out that he had a slightly elevated count but I didn't find that out until six weeks after he moved in with us.

Was I irresponsible and selfish to bring a cat into the house not knowing his titer levels? In a perfect world, I would take in any cat that needs a home. But I don't want to compromise any cat's health. I have too much love and respect for the feline world to do that. Can you please enlighten me about FIP and the Corona virus and carrying it and passing it around--in simple words and a minimum of statistics? I'm not the brightest person on the planet. I just love cats and want to do the best I can for the ones who have chosen to live with me and any who may choose to live me. Thank you so much for your time.

Jackie R.


Answer

Hi Jackie – thanks for your email. I appreciate the fact you want to do the best you can for your cats! Great job! Your question is a good one and in fact I've gotten several very similar questions. I answered one of the questions a few weeks ago but because I've gotten so many more questions and this problem is hard to grasp, I'll try to answer yours too.

It sounds like your vet is worried about Coronavirus. The reason I point this out is because there are other viruses more common and just as serious that are contagious from cat to cat such as Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV or commonly referred to as Feline AIDS). When bringing a new cat into an existing cat household, I worry more about those than I do coronavirus.

There are a couple types of Corona virus. One of them is not a big problem and the other one causes a disease called Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). Many "normal" cats have the relatively benign form of the coronavirus. An article that might be helpful that explains what is FIP and the symptoms it causes is on our Petplace.com site called Feline Infectious Peritonitis FIP.

How do cats get FIP? We used to think FIP was highly contagious. But this is no longer true. It is believed some cats infected with the relatively harmless form of the coronavirus will mutate the virus into the FIP virus. It is not transmitted cat to cat. That is why I'm not as worried about it when bringing a new cat into a home.

A big problem with the coronavirus and FIP has been that the tests to date have not been good at differentiating them between the FIP virus and the other corona virus. The most common blood test checks for exposure to the corona virus but does not differentiate between the viruses. So when a test comes up positive, it tells us that the cat has been exposed to corona only. However, a very high titer combined with a sick cat with clinical signs may be suggestive of FIP.

However, there is a newer test being done at Auburn University that is more definitive for diagnosing the FIP. I'll give you the information form the University of Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine website: http://www.vetmed.auburn.edu/index.pl/feline_infectious_peritonitis_virus


Best of luck!


Dr. Debra




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