When to Euthanize Cat With FIP?

Feline infectious peritonitis is an aggressive disease that may be fatal in cats. For some, euthanasia can be the solution to ending a pet’s struggle. Every situation is different, so you must have the necessary information to consider when to euthanize a cat with FIP. 

What is FIP?

FIP otherwise known as Feline Infectious Peritonitis is a virus that usually causes mild symptoms such as diarrhea or mild upper respiratory infections. Most recover from the infections but in approximately 10% of cats, a virus mutation may occur where it is able to infect white blood cells. (reference: Cornell Feline Health Center, Feline infectious peritonitis)

In this case, an infected white blood cell may spread the virus throughout the body. There is an intense inflammatory response in the blood vessels usually in the abdomen, kidney and possibly even brain. The body’s response to the virus along with the virus is what causes the severe symptoms of FIP. 

Woman stroking her black and white cat while reading a book

What are FIP Symptoms?

Cats initially exposed to the virus do not usually show symptoms. Some cats may have mild upper respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, eye or nasal discharge or diarrhea. These symptoms usually resolve without treatment. Some cats may develop symptoms weeks, months or years later after the initial infection. 

There are two forms or types of FIP, a wet and dry form. The symptoms in both types include vague signs such as decreased appetite, weight loss, lethargy and fever.

The dry form may also have symptoms such as seizures or difficulty walking (ataxia).

The wet form, also known as effusive FIP, usually progresses more rapidly with fluid in the abdomen or chest. Symptoms include a distended abdomen or difficulty breathing. 

How to Know if My Cat has FIP

It is very difficult to diagnose FIP. If coronavirus titers are high and there are clinical signs such as a fever that is unresponsive to antibiotics, or fluid in the abdomen or chest cavity, most likely the patient has FIP.

The wet or effusive form is a bit easier to diagnose because the fluid has a characteristic yellow color with a high protein level. The dry form is more difficult to confirm.

Coronavirus titers are not absolute because many cats have been exposed to this virus and will have high antibody levels. The coronavirus does not cause the disease until it mutates or changes to FIPV. Therefore, the best way to confirm the disease is by recognizing a high coronavirus titer or blood level, which means the virus was present and a PCR test (polymerase chain reaction) which may have false positive or negative results.

Unfortunately, several test may be needed to confirm FIP infection. 

Is there FIP Treatment?

There is a new treatment GS-441524 which blocks the virus from replicating and causing infection. A very similar drug, Remdesivir, has been used to treat coronovirus in human patients. Research has shown GS-441524 has effectively and safely cured FIP in cats.

Unfortunately, the medication is not available to veterinarians. The treatment itself does require daily injections under the skin for at least 12 weeks and monitoring under the supervision of a veterinarian. Veterinarians are awaiting FDA approval of the medication to allow more access to the medication. Veterinarians are not able to prescribe this medication.

In recent months, there has been a movement through social media with groups such as the FIP warriors to make the drug accessible to the general public. 

When to Euthanize a Cat With FIP?

You may consider euthanizing cats with FIP days or weeks within the prognosis, especially if they are in constant pain, suffering from severe neurological signs such as seizures, and having trouble moving or eating. Even in earlier stages, euthanasia is the more humane option if your cat is not responding well to hospice care or other treatment.

As a pet owner, we know you want to give your cat a fighting chance to survive. FIP has a low life expectancy, and there may come a time when euthanasia would be best. However, Veterinarians are hopeful that drugs such as GS-441524 will become FDA approved and available.

Gray cat lying beside a flower vase

What to Consider When Deciding to Euthanize Cats With FIP

Most cats with feline infectious peritonitis may only live for a few weeks as the illness progresses aggressively. You may choose to euthanize your cat early on since it may succumb to the disease sooner or later. 

Despite that, we recommend you do these things first when considering in-home pet euthanasia. 

  • Consult your veterinarian: Vets can provide up-to-date information on your pet’s prognosis. They can recommend if you should continue with medication or if it’s best to end their suffering.
  • Check your pet’s quality of life: A quality of life assessment lets you analyze your cat’s diagnosis and what will likely happen in the coming days.
  • Consider your emotional and financial capacity: Unexpected pet care expenses can emotionally and financially drain cat owners. FIP has no effective long-term management, so there’s no shame in considering euthanasia for your cat with FIP if it’s more practical for your expenses, feelings, and well being of your cat. 

What Are the Signs You Need to Euthanize a Cat With FIP?

Feline infectious peritonitis is a viral disease in cats caused by certain strains of the feline coronavirus that result in acute respiratory disorders. It is the cause of loss of life in one out of 200 cats in the United States.

There are stages of FIP in cats, and you can consider any of them the right time to euthanize your cat. Moreso, when there are more bad days than good ones, especially if you observe the ill effects are giving your pet a harder time. 

Woman wearing a white sweater cuddling a white and yellow cat

How Long Do Cats With Feline Infectious Peritonitis Live?

Cats with FIP have an average life expectancy of two months or less from the time of diagnosis without medications such as GS-441524. Some may even only last for days, depending. FIP in cats is typically incurable and fatal.  

Related Questions

Is It Possible for a Cat to Survive FIP?

Feline infectious peritonitis is fatal, so it’s likely impossible for a cat to survive FIP. This is why euthanasia is commonly considered for cats with FIP to avoid prolonging a pet’s agony. There is a new treatment with high success rates but unfortunately the medication is not available to be prescribed by Veterinarians except in clinical trials.

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