Is the dreaded FIP really a death sentence? One of the most serious diseases in cats is a major challenge

Szénási Szimonetta

2024. March 1 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

It is caused by a viral infection, and for a long time it was synonymous with a death sentence. We investigated the current options.


Most cat owners are well aware of the three-letter acronym in the title, FIP, which stands for Feline Infectious Peritonitis.

Wet and dry FIP

As it is emphasised on The cure for FIP website, the diagnosis of the infection is made difficult by the fact that it cannot be clearly detected, for example by a blood test. Instead, symptoms are the guide. There are two types of FIP, the so-called wet FIP and dry FIP.

Like a balloon full of water

The former is characterised by the accumulation of large amounts of fluid in the animal’s abdomen and sometimes in the chest, which makes breathing difficult and is more dangerous than abdominal fluid retention. A rapid respiratory rate is one of the most obvious signs of the condition.

The fluid-filled abdomen makes the cat look like a pear, or bloated. To the touch, it resembles a balloon full of water. This can be accompanied by weight loss, so although the animal may appear significantly fuller at the belly, the rest of its body becomes thinner and skinnier.

In addition, common symptoms of the disease include:

  • loss of appetite,
  • lethargy, tiredness (e.g. hiding, less active),
  • high fever that does not respond to antibiotics,
  • protrusion of the third eyelid,
  • weight loss,
  • jaundice (noticeable on the ears, nose and palate),
  • often a period of diarrhea before the onset of the disease.


In dry FIP, the course of the disease is slower, the infection does not trigger as strong an immune response as in the wet form, and the symptoms are more generalised, making the disease even more difficult to detect.

Warning sings:

  • loss of appetite,
  • lethargy,
  • fatigue,
  • weight loss,
  • stunted growth in case of kittens,
  • protrusion of the third eyelid,
  • or diarrhea before the onset of the disease.

Nervous system symptoms

In addition, the virus may cross the blood-brain barrier, leading to neurological symptoms and eye problems. These may include partial or complete paralysis (usually of the hind limbs first), tremors, seizures, inflammation of the eye inside and outside, aqueous flare, and inflammation of the retina (retinal vasculitis).

As there is no test specifically for FIP, vets first test the animal for the two other common diseases, feline leukosis (FeLV) and feline AIDS (FIV). They can then be excluded from the diagnosis with absolute certainty. More bad news is that there is no vaccine for prevention.

Is FIP curable?

The main question for cat owners is how to treat the infection. For a long time there was no cure, and even today it is still very difficult to treat sick animals.

Although the product GS-441524 (GS) is already used in some countries, it is not available everywhere. On the aforementioned website,you can also find detailed information on this. According to Dr. Niels Pedersen and his fellow researchers, the treatment is nothing more than a course of treatment for 84 days with the aforementioned GS.

As they write, this is a

nucleic acid analogue compound. This means that it can insert itself into the RNA of the virus in place of one of the nucleic acids and prevent the virus from replicating. This interrupts the above chain reaction, the amount of virus in the body is gradually reduced, the immune system can recover, inflammation is eliminated and by the end of the treatment no virus remains in the body.

It is clear from the description that the cure requires a great deal of care in the way it is administered, and that it is also financially very demanding. Additional treatment(s) may also be needed depending on the condition of the cat.

If you want to know more about the diseases already mentioned, you can find more information on FeLV in this article, while about FIV you can read here.

FeLV FIP FIV infection

Related articles

More articles