There are two types of coronaviruses that can cause severe Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), which is a rare strain that develops in cats after multiple mutations of the virus. SARS-CoV2 and feline coronavirus (FCoV) are the two viruses that cause FIP in cats. SARS-CoV2 is specific to humans but in very rare cases, cats can contract the virus too. However, FCoV is specific to cats only and cannot be found in humans.
This article both aims to explain and deal with the feline version of coronavirus and take out any doubt regarding Covid-19 affecting cats. The pandemic has been around for more than a year now and in the initial days, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that cats and dogs cannot transmit Covid-19 to humans. The vaccination process has started in many countries, but the new variants appearing to continue to be more severe and deadly, such as the one going on in India currently. Officials and citizens are hopeful the vaccination will help in containing the virus, but not being prepared might cost us largely. No one can accurately predict where we will be in the future and when we can expect to fully put this pandemic behind us. People are worried about what might happen if animals start contracting and transmitting it to humans. What we can do is be prepared, and take precautions.
Read on if you are looking to inform yourself about the feline coronavirus, its risks, and prevention tactics:
Risks associated with FCoV:
A less commonly known fact about Feline Coronavirus is that it is a very common virus that affects cats around the world. And this is not limited to house pets, it can be found in bigger felines as well. The symptoms are diarrhea and vomiting that is caused by gastrointestinal disease that disturbs the stomach. Different cats react to it differently, depending upon their bodies and ability to take on the disease, just as different immune systems in humans. While some cats are totally asymptomatic, many of them are at risk of developing FIP or Feline Infectious Peritonitis which can be deadly for the cat. It is understood to be caused by FCoV mostly when the virus mutates into more than a subclinical disease.
According to veterinary data, the risk of any FCoV developing into FIP is 10% which is a large number in stats. This is more than severe because it means whenever the feline coronavirus develops in a cat, there is a huge probability it might develop into FIP.
Immune-mediated vasculitis is an autoimmune inflammation of the blood vessels that is caused when a cat suffers from FIP. This clearly tells you, the blood vessels within the organs are affected when an FCoV develops into FIP, making the virus more severe for the animals. There are two levels that define the condition according to severity, dry and wet. There are different organs that can get involved depending upon where the virus affects. Eyes, kidneys, peritoneum, pleurae, liver, and the central nervous system (CNS) are all among the affected areas that have come into notice so far. Wet FIP is severe, the damage caused can be deadly, while when it is relatively less fatal, it is called dry form of FIP.
In the wet form, it takes the effects 4 to 6 weeks to get severe after the infection has occurred. One of the most distressing effects in wet FIP is a yellow thick liquid forming in the cat’s chest and stomach. Meanwhile, the dry form which is comparably less volatile makes the cats lazy, lose appetite and lose weight in some cases. It all depends on your cat’s health whether it might be able to take the effects of it, but so far the mortality rate for both conditions is 100%, even considering how stressful it can be for pets and their owners.
Antibodies necessary for FCoV:
There is a test your cat can go through in order to identify the possibility of infection. The contagious rate among cats is high considering that most of the cases are not that severe and cats mostly recover. Regardless of the rate and possibility, your cat can take an antibody test to identify its possibility of infection in case it got exposed to another cat with a similar condition. There are many test kits available in hospitals and veterinary pharmacies, but you need to make sure you are picking a 100% reliable kit that would not miss any signs within your cat. Accurate results will help you get your pet treated as soon as possible and stop it from developing into severe FIP.
The virus, albeit even if not deadly, can be highly distressing for your pet and yourself. There could be a chain reaction of events that could lead to severe conditions, such as if your cat loses a considerable amount of weight then it will not be able to recover the energy to sustain its body. Be proactive and get your pet tested as soon as you detect any relevant symptoms.
Factors risking FCoV:
There are some factors that can enhance the effect of FCoV development into FIP in cats. While a majority is observed recovering from FCoV, there are still chances it may get worse for your cat. These are the factors that increase the possibility of FIP development:
- Infection rate around the living facility where the cat takes shelter
- Young cat/kitten is more likely to get affected by the variants of the virus
- Genes that make the cat either stronger or weaker based on it’s breed
- The immune system is a common one to other diseases as well
The first factor is critical since FCoV is a shedding virus, your cat is most likely to get affected in case it is around other cats that have contracted it. Apart from that, in shelters or clinics where there is a large number of cats coexisting, their stress levels are likely high which makes them further at risk of contracting the virus. The FIP-exposed cats have been observed to have larger stress levels than usual cats. There are many easy to execute ways that can help prevent stress in cats that have FCoV antibodies to make sure it does not develop into FIP.
The foremost advice veterinarians give regarding keeping cats safe from FCoV and hence from it developing into FIP is preventing them from the virus in the first place. Even though there have been developments in the treatment of the disease so that affected animals could be treated, the safest way to go is still prevention in the first place.
Since the disease is viral and mostly constitutes cats infecting other cats, the best preventive measure is to choose a cat-free of the FCoV. This includes mostly those cats that have been brought up in an isolated environment from other cats, house cats that only come in contact with the mother/father cat. The largest rate of deaths due to FIP is among young cats, therefore it is important to consider their exposure for their own safety.
There is reason prevention is focused on a lot more than treatment is, if you take easy precaution in the first place there would be no need to treat anything. This is a universal take and it goes right for cats too in this case. Even if there is no data proving cats can carry and transmit Covid-19, do not take those chances. Prevent FCoV in the first place or get it treated properly if you find your cat to be affected.