Yesterday I attended the Tufts' Canine and Feline Breeding and Genetics Conference sponsored by the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. The conference is given every two years and breeders and veterinarians from around the world attended. Among the speakers were Dr. Susan Little (Winn Feline Foundation) and Drs. Niels Pedersen and Leslie Lyons from UC Davis who are worldwide experts on FIP and Feline genetics.
Here are some highlights of the discussion on FIP. FOR THE MOST ACCURATE INFORMATION, READ NIELS PEDERSON'S SUMMARY ARTICLE http://www.vetmed. ucdavis.edu/ CCAH/documents/ FIP_Synopsis_ Jan13_09. pdf.
FIP is not considered to be contagious from cat to cat. If ever this occurs, it would be a) very unusual and b) a particularly virulent strain that behaves a bit differently that what they have seen. FIP transmission from cat to cat is not thought to be impossible, but there is little evidence that this is how infection typically occurs.
Although there are different theories on FIP , the leading theory centers around the mutation of the enteric corona virus. That said, they have an SPCA population of FIP cats that did not have the mutated virus and they are trying to fit this into their understanding of the virus (although FIP in purebred cats does fit the mutation model).
The FIP diagnosis is complex and is centered around an "index of suspicion" in which clinical data (such as fluid from abdomen) is combined with blood test results, environment of cat, clinical presentation etc. to form the diagnosis. Even with all the available data gathered, they sometimes can't be 100% until necropsy and even then, some pathologists do not want to definitively state the disease is FIP.
Dry FIP is being seen much more frequently and it's believed to be more common because cats are doing better at mounting a defense to FIP and are not succumbing so readily. Although this diagnosis is even more complex, there are sometimes small pockets of fluid that can be found and removed for analysis, looking for the telltale straw color and high protein content.
Even if the diagnosis is NOT absolutely definitive, the UC Davis SOCKFIP Genetics study http://www.sockfip. org/ NEEDS tissue samples from affected cats and DNA cheek swabs from family members!! Even if the FIP illness occurred in the past, if parents or sibs are available for cheek swabbing, they need this DNA for their research. Their statistical methodology can account for any outliers in the data (meaning we don't have to be 100% certain of the diagnosis to send this in... a strong suspicion by a veterinarian would qualify). THEY NEED DNA FOR THEIR RESEARCH TO SUCCEED. Click here for submission information http://www.sockfip. org/downloads/ davis-fip- studies.html.
They stressed that FIP can happen to any cat and a cattery that has not had FIP is statistically at HIGHER risk for FIP than a cattery that HAS had FIP. Yes, there are measures we can take to reduce risk factors, but we, as owners and breeders need to lead the effort to get UC Davis DNA data if we want this illness to be understood and eradicated. We need to abandon the stigma and start acting by producing data that can further the research. This data is confidential and can even be sent anonymously.
IF you had a cat or bred a cat that was diagnosed with or suspected of having FIP by a veterinarian (REGARDLESS of your own personal opinions, fears, or misgivings), UC Davis needs DNA swabs from parents and sibs of this affected cat. It is normal and understandable to not want our cats to be diagnosed with this horrible illness, but we need to set those feelings aside and further the FIP research. When I saw the spike of Birman FIP incidents compared to other breeds (regardless of whether this is due to better reporting by Birman owners and breeders, or a higher incidence of the disease) I knew why I had attended the conference. This was my cue to spread the word and take up this cause. WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
Please forward this to your cat lists to get the word out. Although tissue samples and DNA swabs from high risk breeds like Birmans is especially useful, the SOCKFIP Genetics study http://www.sockfip. org/downloads/ davis-fip- studies.html needs data from ALL types of cats, purebred and mixed breed, and high and low risk groups.