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FIP? Fever and fluid.

Species: Cat
Breed: shorthair -tuxedo
Age: 2-5 years
We brought Mo into the vet two weeks ago because he had stopped eating and grooming himself. He was also making a jutting head movement when he swallowed, similar to the movements cats make before they vomit.

The vet found he had a fever of 104.5. He took x rays and found fluid in his abdomen and suspected FIP. An ultrasound did not show any masses or obstructions and his heart looked fine. His blood work was also good. We are still waiting for the tests of the abdominal fluid because the lab lost Mo's first sample and did not inform the vet for a full week.

We put him on prednisone which helped a lot for a week and less so after that. Then we added mirtazipine and cerenia to try to encourage him to eat more. He is still eating very little but the cerenia did seem to improve his mood.

My question is this: The vet did not have an explanation for the problem Mo is having with swallowing, and seemed to think it was irrelevant compared to the FIP. I understand that FIP is the most likely reason for ascites in a cat this age, but I also see that the swallowing problem seems to be what is directly interfering with his eating. Is there something else that could be causing this kind of swallowing problem, fever and fluid in the abdomen? Or is the swallowing likely a symptom of FIP? I am so afraid we are missing something that could possibly save him. Thank you so much for your time and your help.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, I am sorry to hear about what is happening with Mo. The symptoms certainly do sound like FIP. Any time we see a fever in a young cat and abdominal fluid, FIP is very likely.

It's hard to say why Mo is having these swallowing issues. I did a search for you on Veterinary Information Network where thousands of vets discuss their difficult cases. I searched for "FIP" and "swallowing" and I found several cases where cats with FIP had difficulty swallowing. Many described it as gagging. I can't say for certain why this is, but it's possible that FIP causes lesions to form around the tonsils?

There is a lot that we don't know about FIP. We do know that there is a wet and a dry form and some cats get both. With a belly full of fluid, wet FIP is likely present, but the dry form could be affecting Mo's tonsils.

I could make a case for other things going on but they would be much less likely than FIP. One possibility would be electrocution. If a cat chews on an electrical wire this can cause burns at the back of the mouth which can interfere with swallowing. It mostly causes fluid in the chest though, not the abdomen, but it is possible. It's a long shot though.

Another possibility would be if Mo had swallowed something caustic like bleach or another chemical. It could cause burns in the throat/esophagus that could cause swallowing problems. But, in order for it to cause fluid in the abdomen this would mean that there was intestinal or stomach perforation and that would be very bad.

From what you have described I fear that FIP is most likely. I think that the swallowing issue is likely related to the FIP (mostly because of the cases that have been reported on VIN). Unfortunately, as you likely know, we don't have a cure for FIP.

Please let me know if you have more questions.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.