Bacteria Infections in Cats

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Cats are prone to certain bacterial infections including salmonella, streptococcus and Bordetella. Infected cats may display symptoms such as fever, digestive upset and lethargy. Some bacteria also can infect humans in the home, so diagnosing and treating bacterial infections in cats is important to maintain a healthy home.

A veterinary examination is necessary to determine what bacteria is infecting your cat.
A veterinary examination is necessary to determine what bacteria is infecting your cat. (Image: Jeng_Niamwhan/iStock/Getty Images)

Bordetella and Chlamydophila

Bordetella bronchiseptica and Chlamydophila felis are two bacteria that commonly cause upper respiratory infections in cats. Often the bacterial infection occurs with a viral infection. Symptoms of an upper respiratory infection include sneezing, runny eyes and nose and nasal congestion. Cats may be lethargic, feverish or stop eating.

Veterinarians can determine the cause of the upper respiratory infection by testing the discharge from your cat's eyes or nose or from the back of his throat. Veterinarians may prescribe an antibiotic to help your cat fight the bacterial infection. Other upper respiratory infection treatments help manage your cat's symptoms. For example, congestion may be relieved by placing your cat in a steamy bathroom for 10 to 15 minutes. Eye medications may help prevent discharge.

Salmonella Infection

Salmonella infects the gastrointestinal tract of cats. Cats with weakened immune systems due to other infections or stress and young kittens are most susceptible to infection. Symptoms of infection include high fever, weakness, diarrhea and vomiting. Some cats are carriers of the bacteria but do not display symptoms. Salmonella can be transmitted to humans and other pets through contact with the cat's stool.

Veterinarians diagnose salmonella infections by testing for the bacteria in the cats stool. Antibiotics are only prescribed in severe cases to prevent the development of antibiotic-resistant salmonella. Cats who become dehydrated due to vomiting and diarrhea may need subcutaneous or intravenous fluids.

Streptococcus Bacteria

Young kittens and elderly cats are most prone to infection from the streptococcus bacteria. The infection causes fever, lethargy, arthritis symptoms, difficulty swallowing and coughing. Cats also may develop pneumonia or abscesses. Veterinarians treat the infection with a course of antibiotics and by keeping your cat hydrated.

Campylobacteriosis Infections

Campylobacteriosis usually only infects kittens less than 6 months of age. It is caused by the campylobacter bacteria, which many cats carry in their digestive tract. Kittens often contract the disease in kennels or other crowded conditions through the feces of a carrier cat. The disease can be transmitted to humans. Campylobacteriosis causes diarrhea, fever, vomiting, inflammation of the lymph nodes and anorexia.

Veterinarians diagnose the condition by testing a stool sample. Infected kittens are treated with antibiotics such as erythromycin and ciprofloxacin. In serious cases, kittens may need intravenous fluids.

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