Feline Enteric Coronavirus (FECV) tends to affect kittens more than it does adults, where it produces a relatively mild intestinal infection. There is the possibility that some cats might remain carriers of FECV (FCoV) throughout their lives, which is why they could transmit it to other animals.
In this species, FECV is very closely associated with the development and progression of Feline Infectious Peritonitis, a highly contagious and life-threatening disease that affects most of a cat’s internal organs.
In today’s article, we’re looking at how Feline Enteric Coronavirus infections happen, what symptoms they cause, how they can be diagnosed, and whether there are any options in terms of therapies available right now.
How Do Cats Get Infected with the Feline Enteric Coronavirus?
There are two main ways of infection transmission when it comes to this disease – vertically and horizontally.
Mothers can transmit the infection to their kittens either when they are still in the womb or after they are given birth to.
Horizontal transmission is ensured through direct contact from a cat that either carries the virus and does not have an apparent infection or one that’s simply an inapparent carrier – to a completely healthy one.
Some studies suggest that 12% to 13% of all cats in the world right now are carriers, and their owners might not even be aware of the fact. This is particularly true for cats that tend to live both indoors and outdoors, which can easily transmit the infection to other animals.
The biggest problem when it comes to this virus is that even in dry environments, it can survive for a period of as many as 6 to 7 weeks. This means that even if a cat leaves their droppings in a specific area, which might be contaminated with the virus, several weeks later, that surface will still present a danger for another pet.
The virus can also be expelled through saliva, vomiting, and diarrhea, so pretty much all of the body fluids that a cat can produce.
What Symptoms Does FECV Cause?
In most cats, FECV causes a gastrointestinal infection and not an upper respiratory one. However, pets that have a less capable immune system are known to develop breathing difficulties along with the rest of the digestive symptoms that they are likely to experience.
Kittens that catch the infection have a higher chance of developing the gastrointestinal form without any other respiratory complications.
In cats that develop FIP, there are some other clinical signs that owners can expect, such as the following:
Some cats have liquid accumulating inside their respiratory system, which is why they can experience severe breathing distress. Most will develop the abdominal form, meaning that their belly areas will expand as a result of fluid accumulating in their abdominal cavities.
Something that we have to note is that not all cats that catch a Feline Enteric Coronavirus infection will develop FIP. The reason for this is that the virus should mutate in a specific manner in order for it to cause the second condition.
How is an FECV Infection Diagnosed?
The only way of accurately diagnosing this infection, especially if it is not associated with clinical findings specific to FIP, too, is by performing a fecal RT-PCR test.
The diagnosis should not be based only on the clinical examination that any veterinarian can ensure at the animal hospital. If they have any suspicion whatsoever regarding FECV or FIP, they will recommend and perform the specific test for an accurate diagnosis process.
Can Feline Enteric Coronavirus Infections be Treated?
Fortunately, most cats do not develop severe forms of FECV, which means that they can recover in a period of less than one to two weeks.
If any type of therapy is required, given the health status of every animal in part, they will receive supportive treatment for treating and preventing dehydration or for treating the secondary bacterial infections that might have developed.
Most cats that get this infection will not lose their life, especially if they have previously been taken care of properly and they have a pretty well-functioning immune system.
Cats that live in catteries or shelters have to be tested for such viral infectious diseases on a regular basis as they can spread easily from one animal to the next to the point that they infect the entire community of cats.
Is There any Way of Preventing FECV?
Maintaining good hygiene and keeping your cats somewhat separated is one of the ways you can prevent Feline Enteric Coronavirus infections. Keeping them exclusively indoors is another, and we strongly urge you to consider it to limit the spread of the virus to other animals that might live outdoors.
There is a vaccine available these days, and it can be given to cats that have reached the age of at least 16 weeks.
However, when it comes to viral diseases in cats, these pathogens tend to mutate fast, so by the time the cat comes in contact with the virus, she might have only a partial immunity against it, and she might still develop a mild form of the disease and remain a carrier throughout their life.
Even so, vaccinating your cat against FCoV is still a better option than not doing it, especially since it is so closely linked to FIP infections.