Feline coronavirus is common in cats and shares that scary name with COVID-19. Fortunately it doesn’t affect humans and causes negligible, if any, symptoms in cats aside from mild diarrhoea.
But when the feline coronavirus changes to a specific strain of the coronavirus, Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) can develop. In about 10 percent of cats infected, the virus will multiply and mutate, resulting in an FIP virus infection that spreads throughout the cat’s body. It can cause an extreme inflammatory reaction in the tissues surrounding the abdomen, chest, kidney, eyes or brain.
Until recently, a diagnosis of FIP was a death sentence for a feline patient. But that notion has been turned on its head over the last few years as new methods of diagnosis and treatment have been developed.
Now veterinarians are in a position to successfully treat 80 percent or more of cats with FIP. But the treatment can be expensive.
Over the last year, successful treatments have made use of injections of the COVID-19 treatment drug remdesivir (GS 5734) and an antiviral drug GS 441524.
The manufacturer that developed GS-441524, has not developed the drug for use in cats so various laboratories in China and eastern Europe started manufacturing GS-441524 and selling it on the black-market.
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, Vet Boards and Border Force have made it difficult to import GS-441524. Vets who made use of the black-market drugs to treat FIP were warned off.
Fortunately it is legal for the drug to be compounded for cats by a compounding pharmacy. The company BOVA Australia is compounding GS441524 in tuna-flavoured tablets.
A less expensive option, mefloquine (commercial name Lariam) is a human antimalarial drug that has antiviral affects and has been used to treat FIP. In several cats where owners were unable to afford a full course of remdesivir, mefloquine has achieved a clinical cure.
The search for cheaper and easier remedies for FIP goes on. Sydney University PhD student, Sally Coggins, is studying these drugs for the treatment of FIP, making use of data from Australian vets who are treating FIP cases in their practices.
For more detailed information read this article on a current treatment protocol.
Although treatments can be expensive, the situation continues to evolve. As we usually recommend, early detection and following the advice of your vet is the best course.