FIP treatment: hope on the horizon?

Is there hope on the horizon for FIP treatment? Find out about the latest research.

FIP treatment feline infectious peritonitis

FIP is Feline Infectious Peritonitis, and FIP treatment has been relatively non-existent for decades. FIP is a terrible illness in cats that occurs when feline coronavirus mutates and the cat’s body goes through a variety of processes. Each cat’s body reacts differently to the virus, so FIP in itself is thankfully not infectious.

FIP and feline coronavirus 

You can read more about FIP and coronavirus in our articles:

- learn about feline coronavirus, and how to reduce your risks.

All of our cats have tested negative for feline coronavirus. 

Up until summer 2018 there had been very little progress made in the fight against FIP in the 50 years since it emerged, despite the best attempts of researchers. Despite decades of research, no FIP treatment had ever come close to being successful. 

FIP: hope on the horizon

But now there is hope on the horizon. Dr Niels Pederson and his team in the USA concluded some trials in which 10 cats were infected with FIP. These 10 cats were then treated with a new FIP treatment method. All 10 of the cats went into remission and at the date of writing (December 2018) these cats remain FIP free. The treatment is complex, and must be administered by a specialist vet.

FIP treatment Niels Pederson

This is an astounding achievement. This is the first time that a group of cats have all entered remission and stayed FIP free for this amount of time. Previous studies were carried out by Dr Pederson, with different treatments, where around 30% of cats recovered, but most succumbed to FIP again at some later point.

If you are reading this article because you have been given the devastating diagnosis of FIP in your cat, then unfortunately this treatment will likely not reach you in time. The drugs have been developed, but are entering the commercialisation process and are not yet widely available. We have heard of people importing them from America though, so please explore every possibility if you can.

Please note that there are limitations to this study, so we can’t get too excited about an FIP-cure-all yet:

  • The study only involved 10 cats

  • We will not know if the treatment truly ‘cured’ their FIP until some more time has passed - they may still succumb to FIP months or even years in the future

  • The treatment has not yet been through the vigorous testing systems put in place for drug development: as it goes through those systems weaknesses may be found with the treatment

  • The treatment seems to be effective only in wet FIP and less so in dry FIP

  • The treatment is only effective if FIP is caught very early on in the progression of the disease. Once the disease has reached a certain point, then the damage to the cat’s body is too great and they cannot recover even with the treatment

  • The problem is that cases of FIP often do not get diagnosed until the latter stages of the disease - the symptoms of the early stages of FIP can be subtle and are not widely known by cat owners and the disease can develop rapidly

  • It remains difficult to diagnose FIP. There is no absolute definitive test to confirm FIP. It is estimated that some 80% of cases diagnosed by vets as FIP are actually something totally different. There are many other conditions that present with the same symptoms as FIP. The emerging FIP treatment would make these other conditions worse if it was given mistakenly.

  • Given the time it takes to get a definitive FIP diagnosis, and the fact that treatment must be given early to be successful, it is likely that many domestic pet cats would not be diagnosed early enough to benefit from the treatment

With all that being said, this is the most significant advancement in FIP treatment that we have ever had. It may not be perfect, but it is something. There is finally a glimmer of light at the end of the 50 year journey to find a treatment for this terrible illness.

Many thanks to Dr Pederson and all of the teams involved with this. Their lifetimes of hard work, dedication and commitment are finally starting to pay off.

For more information read our articles on feline coronavirus and FIP. These articles talk you through how FIP is caused, how you can minimise your cat’s risks, and how to find a lower-risk breeder or cat shelter if you are looking for a cat or kitten.