percent of those cats (correctly
“Sadly, it wasn’t difficult to find
cat lovers once affected by FIP,”
From around the globe, Bria
Fund supporters have raised nearly
$350,000 in all. “In the world of cat
health, that’s a lot of money,” said
Vicki Thayer, D.V.M., DABVP (feline)
and executive director of the Winn
FIP is caused by a mutation of
the otherwise benign and common
coronavirus. The coronavirus can
make cats feel lousy and cause
tummy upset and/or a slight fever,
but it usually dissipates quickly on
its own, even without veterinary
intervention. Sometimes, however,
for unknown reasons, the benign
coronavirus transforms inside the
cat into the fatal immune-mediated
disease called FIP.
“No question, the Bria Fund is
quite remarkable,” Dr. Thayer said.
“Susan has created distinct chan-
nels for cat owners around the
world to get information and sup-
port, and she has mobilized efforts
to raise money for research.”
“Those of us with cats who have
died of FIP have become a kind
of online family,” said Gingrich, a
retired nurse in Loudon, Tennessee.
“The emotional toll of seeing what
happens to these kittens is heart-
Over the years, Winn Feline has
funded the work of Dr. Pedersen, a
legend in veterinary medicine, more
than any other FIP researcher. Dr.
Diane Addie, another researcher,
said via email from her home in
the Pyrenees Mountains in France,
“My own work on FIP brought me
into (Pedersen’s) sphere, and he
gallantly and generously invited this
unknown upstart from Scotland to
participate in the first-ever FIP sym-
posium hosted at UCD.”
She added that Dr. Pedersen
called Addie a “very stubborn
lady,” for her steadfast belief about
how the disease is formed in cats.
Recent studies by researchers at
the Cornell Feline Health Center,
funded by Winn’s Bria Fund,
demonstrate that she was correct
“It’s a huge advance to recognize
how FIP targets cells,” Dr. Thayer
It’s hardly a stretch to argue that
more discoveries about FIP have
occurred in the past 10
years than all the previous decades combined
since the disease was
first recognized in the
“I thank the Winn
Foundation for funding
two of my studies and
an FIP conference —
and for making a difference for all cats.” Dr.
Pedersen also credits
to solve FIP, calling its
continued funding “necessary to be
where we are.”
There’s no doubt that Gingrich,
the Bria Fund, and its army of
online followers have changed the
course of FIP research.
To start with, there’s a better
understanding of FIP today, which
makes diagnosis more accurate.
Still, Gingrich said that too many
cats continue to be misdiagnosed.
Thus far, there’s no “magic pill”
to treat FIP. The laundry list of
failed medications ranges from
human cancer drugs to — according to one blogger in New Zealand
— chicken soup.
There are two types of FIP. One
is called the wet (or effusive) form,
and the other is called the dry (or
The Bria Funds supported stud-
ies of a drug called Polyprenyl
Immunostimulant, which might
help extend the lives of some cats
with the dry form of the disease.
However, like all drugs for cats with
FIP, the verdict remains unclear. The
same can be said for a drug called
feline interferon omega, which
Addie supports while others do not.
At this point, the drug is expensive
and hard to get in the U.S.
Now that FIP is better understood, the hope is that a surefire
drug therapy will be discovered.
Dr. Pedersen may be the clos-
est to doing just that.
He said the increased
interest in the human
severe acute respiratory
syndrome (SARS) and
Middle East respiratory
syndrome (MERS) is
important because they
both have coronavirus-
es in common.
Pedersen said he’s
especially hopeful about
an antiviral drug class
called protease inhibi-
tors, which are the same
class of antiviral drugs
that are widely used to treat HIV/
AIDS and hepatitis C virus in people.
“Ten years ago when I began
the Bria Fund, I had little real hope
that we’d find a treatment for FIP in
my lifetime,” Gingrich said. “Today, I
am filled with hope. If by some mir-
acle every cat owner just gave $10,
a treatment would sure come along
faster. I think we will do it sooner or
later, though I prefer sooner.”
To learn more, visit winnfeline
Contributing editor, Steve
Dale is a certified animal
behavior consultant. He is
a national newspaper col-
umnist (Tribune Content
Agency); heard on WGN
Radio, Chicago; host of the nationally syn-
dicated Steve Dale’s Pet World; and author
of the e-book Good Cat, among others.
He’s a founder of the CATalyst Council and
serves on the boards of the Winn Feline
Foundation and Tree House Humane
Society, Chicago. Check out his blog at
“If by some
— Susan Gingrich