I first met Lola on the kitten plan. She was a Norwegian Forrest cat and came from a cattery in Wisconsin. This was my first experience with a Norwegian Forest Cat.
Known as the Skogkatt in its native Norway, they are large, semi-long-haired cats with robust looks. They are meant to enjoy the company of humans and other pets on their own terms.
Lola was noticeable.
We started their kitten plan with standard tests.
Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Cat Remedies (FIV) can be so devastating that we always test first.
Lola was negative for both of them and started her vaccination and deworming plans. We taught the owners basic cat grooming along the way.
Lola seemed to be enjoying her visits to Guardian Animal.
She stretched out and lightly touched the table top from the floor. She didn’t mind her vaccinations and would boast of being petted afterwards.
Then Lola’s father said that his daughter’s cat, one of Lola’s littermates, had died.
The vet said it was feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), a viral disease. It’s a form of the coronavirus.
Some strains of feline coronavirus do not cause disease and are the feline enteric coronavirus strains. Cats generally show no symptoms even at the early stages of infection.
There is an immune response that develops antiviral antibodies. Only a small fraction of the infected cats achieve clinical FIP. This is what we know as the feline infectious peritonitis virus, or FIP.
These antibodies are supposed to protect the cat, but instead help move the virus around the cat’s body.
There is an intense inflammatory response around the tissue vessels in which the infected cells reside. This is often in the stomach, kidney, or brain. The interaction between the immune system and the virus is what causes the disease.
Without the overreaction of the immune system, clinical FIP would not occur. The disease is progressive and almost always fatal.
According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, the immune-mediated disease of clinical FIP is unlike any other viral disease in animals or humans.
But Lola is active, eating and looking good. She was fully vaccinated and even vaccinated against FIP.
Part of the virus is that cats mask all signs of illness. In the wild, a cat that looks sick has no advantage. There are many disadvantages including being eaten.
Therefore, cats will expend energy looking their best until they are in a state of crisis. Over the course of several weeks, they get more and more sick. Even then, the signs are very vague: loss of appetite; Weight loss; Depression; coarse coat; and fever.
There are two main forms of FIP, the wet or effusive form and a non-affusive or dry form.
The dry form shows the characters more slowly than the wet form. Symptoms generally include chronic weight loss, depression, anemia, and persistent fever unresponsive to antibiotic therapy.
The wet form has a build-up of fluid in the abdomen and / or space around the lungs in the chest. Early on it looks like the dry form, but then it progresses quickly.
The appearance of the pot belly is due to the build-up of liquid. The excess fluid can make breathing difficult.
Unfortunately, not only can diagnosing FIP be difficult because each cat can have different signs, but all of the signs are similar to many other diseases.
Lola’s CBC, or complete blood count, was normal. Her white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets showed nothing. No anemia. No signs of infection. She didn’t have a fever.
Her chemistry was basically normal too, the only increase being a slight increase in her total protein and globulins.
I have sent a FIP titer to a reference laboratory. When it came back strongly positive it was unclear whether it was the vaccine or the disease that made the titer high.
The specialist in the lab thought it was the vaccine, but the values seemed way too high to me.
I called the specialist in Lexington. She recommended that I repeat a protein test on Lola. It was even higher than before.
It was with a heavy heart that I called Lola’s father.
Although we could have had a few more weeks, I couldn’t save her.
He asked for euthanasia. Lola was given some barbiturates and went to sleep. Forever.
At autopsy there were granulomas all over the abdominal cavity. The lungs were attached to the heart with long fibrin sticks.
I felt more comfortable with euthanasia than it said in the autopsy report: “In the lung parenchyma in the lung parenchyma immediately below the visceral pleura there are focal points of pyogranulomatous inflammation.
Alveolar spaces are often flooded with homogeneous, eosinophilic protein-containing edema fluid.
Sections of the kidney have multifocal areas of pyogranulomatous inflammation that are present in the tissues and focus on the capsule and subcapsular parenchyma. “
There was multifocal pyogranulomatous pneumonitis and nephritis, lung and kidney.
“The nature and composition of the inflammatory infiltrate is consistent with that of infectious peritonitis in cats.”
In short, Lola died of the dry form of FIP. Her sister had died from the wet form of FIP.
Apparently the kittens received FIP from the cattery in which they were born. Obviously this is a bad situation.
But unlike feline leukemia, there isn’t a good test for FIP.
The breeder would find it almost impossible to remove FIP from her cats without starting over.
That would be difficult both financially and emotionally.
Unfortunately, the pain Lola’s father went through has no price. And cleaning the cattery of deadly infectious diseases is the right thing to do.
Note: It’s too late for Lola, but there is now a potential treatment for FIP outside of China.
It’s very expensive and doesn’t always work, but it’s a possibility.
MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a top selling Amazon writer based at the Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. GuardianAnimal.com 606-928-6566