A fatal disease of both domestic and exotic cats (particularly cheetahs) caused by feline infectious peritonitis virus, a member of the Coronaviridae family. There are multiple strains of the virus which vary in virulence. Feline infectious peritonitis virus is closely related morphologically, genetically, and antigenically to other members of the Coronaviridae and arises as mutants from feline enteric coronaviruses, which infect cats but generally induce very mild or inapparent gastroenteritis. All coronaviruses are single-stranded ribonucleic acid (RNA) viruses with poor or no error correction during replication, resulting in relatively high mutation rates.
Feline coronaviruses are contracted primarily during exposure to infectious cat feces in the environment, but also via ingestion or inhalation during cat-to-cat contact. Feline infectious peritonitis virus is relatively labile once outside the cat's body but may be able to survive for as long as 7 weeks if protected from heat, light, and desiccation. It is readily inactivated by most disinfectants.
Signs of infection with feline infectious peritonitis virus depend upon the severity of infection, the relative ability of the immune system to minimize some of the characteristic inflammatory lesions, and the organ systems affected. There are two clinical forms of the disease. Wet feline infectious peritonitis, which is characterized by protein and fluid leakage into the abdominal cavity (or less frequently thoracic and scrotal spaces), occurs in cats with overwhelming infection, with poor immunity, or during late stages of other forms of the virus. In contrast, if a cat has a moderately competent (but ultimately ineffectual) immune response to the virus infection, granulomas may arise in infected tissues. This form of the disease, known as dry feline infectious peritonitis, commonly affects kidneys, liver, lymph nodes, mesentery, diaphragm, the outer surface of the intestine, and the neurological system. Wet or effusive feline infectious peritonitis is characterized by abdominal swelling, jaundice, and typically difficulty in breathing.
As with most viral infections, there is no specific antiviral drug of proven efficacy in the treatment of feline infectious peritonitis. Clinical management rests upon palliative treatment of the specific signs exhibited by each cat, and upon antibiotics, when indicated, to reduce secondary bacterial infections. The most important therapeutic approach involves the administration of immunosuppressive doses of corticosteroids to reduce the cat's immune response to the virus. Animal virus Virus