Feline chlamydia is a respiratory disease that affects more and more cats every year. Felines with chlamydia, or feline chlamydiosis, get this disease thanks to a bacterium known as chlamydophila felis (formerly, chlamydia psittaci or feline pneumonitis).
Symptoms and Signs of Chlamydia in Felines
The first clue of chlamydia in cats is usually conjunctivitis, or pink eye; as many as 30 percent of feline pink eye cases are a result of chlamydia. At first, only one eye may show signs, but usually both eyes become red and inflamed. Other issues affected cats may experience include:
These symptoms may last up to several weeks. Due to a weakened immune system, affected felines may also suffer from secondary medical issues, such as pneumonia and infertility.
What Causes Chlamydia in Felines?
Infected cats pass the bacteria onto other cats, typically by grooming one another, so felines exposed to multiple cats are more at risk for the condition. It can take three to 10 days for the first signs of the disease to appear after the initial point of contact with an infected cat. Cats are also most likely to contract chlamydia when they are younger -- between five weeks and nine months of age.
How to Prevent Chlamydia in Felines
There is a vaccine for chlamydia, which is recommended for kittens that are at a higher risk of being exposed to the disease. Vaccination against chlamydia is not a preventative but it does help limit the effects of the disease, should your cat come into direct contact with it. It’s important to note that the vaccine is not effective indefinitely, and annual vaccination may be necessary. The vaccine may have mild, treatable side effects, such as appetite loss, fever, and lameness. Please talk to your vet about whether vaccination is the best option for your little one.
Treatment for Chlamydia in Felines
Since chlamydia isn’t the only cause of pink eye or the related symptoms described above, to determine whether or not your cat has chlamydia, testing will need to be done. Affected cats usually do well on antibiotics, and will likely need to be on them for three to four weeks—at least 10 days after the eyes begin to appear symptom-free. As with any antibiotic, there are some potential side effects of taking the meds. To manage the discomfort associated with the symptoms, eye drops or eye ointment may also be recommended.
If you have a home with multiple cats, it’s likely that all of them will need to be treated, due to the contagious nature of chlamydia. In rare instances, humans may also develop conjunctivitis as a result, requiring further treatment.
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