How to Treat Chlamydia in Cats

Group of kittens outside

Managing a multi-cat household or a cat shelter comes with its own set of difficulties. One of these is avoiding infectious illnesses from spreading from one cat to another. Chlamydia is a common bacterial illness in cats that might put cats living together at danger.

What is Cat Chlamydia

Chlamydia in cats is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia felis, which is also known as Chlamydial Conjunctivitis. One of the most prevalent causes of is a bacterium that invades and affects your cat's eyes. In fact, C. felis is responsible for up to 30% of chronic conjunctivitis in cats.

Cats can become infected through direct contact with the bacteria, so any ocular or nasal secretions are considered to be infectious.

Chlamydia is more likely to spread in multicat households, catteries, and shelters. Because C. felis does not live long in the environment, shared litterboxes, bowls, and toys, although still needing to be cleaned, are less likely to transmit the disease.

Although all cats can become infected by C. felis, young cats and kittens are the most susceptible.

Signs of Chlamydia in Cats

Symptoms

  • Eye discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Squinting of the eyes

The most common symptoms of chlamydia in cats affects their eyes and their .

Typically, the very first sign of infection is watery eye discharge, this can infect one or both eyes. This watery discharge will progress to a thicker, yellow, or even greenish colored discharge.

You may notice moderate sneezing, nasal discharge, occasional mild fever, occasional lethargy, and swelling or reddening of the conjunctiva if your cat becomes infected with C. felis. Due to discomfort, your cat may be squinting or closing one or both eyes.

Symptoms usually start a few days after infection and, although primarily affecting the upper respiratory system, if left untreated can spread to the lower respiratory tract and lungs.

Symptoms are usually the most severe a week and a half to two weeks post-exposure. After two to three weeks the symptoms may subside, but some cats may have symptoms that persist.

Diagnosing Chlamydia in Cats

Bring your cat to the veterinarian if you believe it has contracted C. felis. Upon arrival, your veterinarian will do a physical examination, which will include a thorough examination of your cat's eyes.

A fluorescein stain to look for a corneal scrape or a Schirmer tear test to measure your cat's tear production may be performed. An increase in eye discharge and squinting can also be caused by a corneal scrape. A corneal scrape or ulcer can occur if your cat rubs their eye because it hurts and accidently scratches it, but a positive fluorescein stain test is not a sign of chlamydial infection. Similarly, if your cat suffers from dry eyes, their eyes may generate a thicker, yellowish-colored discharge rather than the standard test.

Your vet may also take swabs of your cat's conjunctiva to examine the cells under the microscope in order to check for signs of infection.

The doctor may also send these swabs to a lab for a specialist test called a Polymerase Chain Reaction to more clearly confirm chlamydia in your cat (PCR). The bacteria on the swab is amplified in this test so that the lab can identify it.

Treatment of Cat Chlamydia

If your cat is diagnosed with chlamydia, your veterinarian will initially prescribe doxycycline, an oral antibiotic. Let your veterinarian know if your cat has a known allergy to doxycycline or other tetracyclines, and they will prescribe an alternative antibiotic.

If your cat appears to be in pain or the symptoms appear to be serious enough, your veterinarian may recommend using an eye ointment or drops in addition to the oral antibiotics. Your veterinarian may wish to treat your cat for many weeks, and if you have additional cats, they may need to be treated as well.

How to Prevent Chlamydia in Cats

There is a vaccine for chlamydia on the market, but it doesn't provide complete protection from the bacteria, so it may not be readily available.

Because the bacteria C. felis has evolved to infect cats, the chances of you catching chlamydia from your cat are slim. After touching a cat with chlamydia or suspected chlamydia, you should continue maintain excellent hygiene.

Chlamydia in cats is easily transmitted from cat to cat but also easily treated. If you have questions or concerns about your cat's risk of contracting chlamydia, speak to your veterinarian.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.

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