Independence from FIP

Independence from FIP

July 4th. Independence Day. Freedom day.

While we celebrate as a country, I would like to talk about another independence and freedom that has recently happened in the world of cats. Not to overshadow our country’s Independence Day, but this is a very important celebration for cats, cat parents, and veterinarians across the country.

It is about FIP (feline infectious peritonitis) and the freedom to not have to hide the life-saving work so many of us have been doing for years. Life-saving that was “illegal” and had to be kept under the veil of secrecy.

FIP, as most of you know, was a 100% fatal disease until Dr. Pedersen at UC Davis discovered the cure circa 2016. Unfortunately, the cure could not be used in the United States due to the politics of big pharma. Imagine you have discovered the cure to cancer, but you cannot use it because a drug company will not let you!? That is what this has been like.

Fortunately, “black market” formulations became available from manufacturers in China. Since 2019, we have been using these formulations to cure FIP in upwards of 85% of cases! We started helping cats with FIP in early 2021 and have helped over a hundred cats since then.

Poppy is one of the kittens whose life we saved. She came to us in mid-November 2023. She was being fostered for a municipal shelter when her foster parents noticed her looking very ill. They reached out to the shelter who did an exam and diagnosed her with “wet” FIP, meaning her abdomen was filling up with fluid which would kill her within several days. At this point, most veterinarians would recommend euthanasia – some still do – but those veterinarians that were knowledgeable about the disease, including Poppy’s veterinarian, would recommend reaching out to people who could access the black-market treatment. Two of those people were myself and a colleague who Poppy’s foster parents reached out to on November 15, 2023.

My colleague immediately got Poppy into treatment. Supportive veterinary care (6 months of exams, blood work and medications for symptoms of the disease) was done at FieldHaven’s clinic.

On May 9, 2024, Poppy was declared CURED of FIP. What just a few years ago would have ended her life at just a few months old was now curable.

But what did it take to cure Poppy? It took some very brave and very resourceful people to make it possible for those of us in the United States to get access to the treatment. It took determination and a network of clinicians to be sure the treatments we were getting from China were pure and effective. It took people like my colleagues and myself to work with pet parents at the local level to liaison between the veterinarians and the FIP experts (known as admins). To hold the hands of pet parents, providing encouragement to those who never thought they would be going such a treacherous road to save their beloved cat’s life.

Countless people took huge personal risks to make this treatment possible. Legal investigations, accusations, threats. I personally experienced it all. Did I ever think I would need to engage legal assistance to defend myself for saving cats’ lives from an otherwise fatal disease? But there I was. Some, including close friends and family, suggested I give up the fight. No – I stood by my principals. In the end, I was cleared of all charges. The fight was scary and stressful, but worth it when I looked into eyes of cured kitties like Poppy and her grateful parents. I knew I was doing what was right.

But now! As of just last month, there is LEGAL TREATMENT FOR FIP IN THE UNITED STATES! Yes, it is true. It is indeed a time to celebrate. Happy Independence Day to Poppy and all the kitties who have beat FIP despite the barriers and to all of those in the future whose lives will be saved from the disease that just a few short years ago an undisputable death sentence!

There are bumps in the road to the legal treatment, mainly due to veterinarians not being knowledgeable about it, but we are all working hard to get the word out. On a national level, veterinary conferences and publications are spreading the word. On a local level, we are working to educate and support veterinarians. The disease is not always straightforward to diagnose, and the treatment plan is variable depending on the type of FIP and symptoms. That is why we still need the FIP admins to support getting successful treatment mainstream in all veterinary practices.

Thank you to all who have supported me the past three and a half years, being there for me when the going got very tough, hugging me when I wanted to crumble at those sad times when we lost a kitty, but I needed to stay strong for the parents. Thank you for understanding why I needed to forge ahead despite the barriers and risk. I would not change one minute of it. Well, except that I should have been a bit quieter about it. Over-transparency has always been a fault of mine!

A huge thank you to Dr. Niels Petersen for never giving up, and all of those who worked at a much bigger level than me to get access to the treatment, teaching others how to treat and for being there literally 24/7 – a lifeline at the end of the keyboard. Fighting along with us, providing the expertise and moral support. Celebrating the cures, mourning those we could not save. Most of you, I have never met in person and may never, but you are my family.

And, lastly, thank you to those pet parents who believed me and trusted me when you called me, frightened, mourning, desperate for help. You believed me when I said “we have a treatment that can cure the disease in most cases but it is illegal, unregulated and we have to get if off the black market from China. You will start an online chat with me, there will be others on the chat who you do not know and, frankly, I have never met myself. You will need to order treatment vials from an online portal and the unlabeled vials will come in a box labelled as ‘facial serum’ or ‘skin care for cats.’ Then, you will need to give your kitty a painful injection daily for 84 days,” and, yet, you still trusted me. Thank you for believing.

FIP treatment is still one of my pet causes and will continue to be. Please reach out to me if you would like more information or if you know someone whose kitty was diagnosed and they are unsure of treatment. We are working with area veterinarians to learn who is offering the treatment and will be publishing a list soon.

Happy FIP Independence Day, Poppy!

The first photo is of Poppy the day she was diagnosed, her belly was quickly filling with the fluid that would kill her within days without the treatment.

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