Feline chlamydiosis is caused by Chlamydophila felis or C. felis, a bacterial organism. C. felis can affect a cat of any age and causes mostly ocular symptoms. Though the infection can lead to some serious complications, prompt treatment typically leads to a full recovery.
What is C. Felis?
C. felis is an unusual bacterium because it has to live and multiply inside the cells of a cat’s body. Most other bacteria live outside cells.
How Does a Cat Become Infected with C. Felis?
A cat can only become infected with C. felis if he has direct or close contact with an infected cat. C. felis cannot survive long in the environment because it requires the cells of the cat’s body to survive.
What Are the Symptoms of Feline Chlamydiosis?
Feline chlamydiosis can affect cats at any age, but young cats and kittens are especially at risk for contracting it. Symptoms usually appear within three to 10 days of infection with C. felis. The bacterium typically infects the conjunctiva, the delicate membranes that line a cat’s eyelids and cover the edges of the eyeballs. Conjunctivitis, inflammation of the conjunctiva, occurs with feline chlamydiosis. The conjunctiva become red and swollen as a result of conjunctivitis. The, “third eyelid,” or nictating membrane may also cover a portion of the eye in affected cats.
The infection can affect one or both eyes of a cat. A watery discharge from the eyes is usually the first sign of the infection. This discharge quickly becomes thicker and either yellow or green in color. An infected cat’s eyes will be uncomfortable, so she will typically keep the affected eye or eyes shut.
Sniffling or sneezing may also appear a day or two following the appearance of the eye discharge. While most cats appear otherwise normal, some kitties may lose their appetite and develop a fever. In kittens, the infection may spread to the lungs, causing pneumonia, which can be fatal. Infertility can occur as a result of the infection in adult cats.
How is Feline Chlamydiosis Diagnosed?
There are various causes of conjunctivitis in cats, so chlamydiosis can be challenging to diagnose. A swab sample must be taken from the conjuctival membrane and sent to the lab for culture in order to diagnose chlamydiosis.
How is Chlamydiosis Treated?
Once a diagnosis has been made, the infection can be treated with a course of oral antibiotics. Because C. felis lives inside cells, only antibiotics that can penetrate cells can be used. Sometimes an antibiotic eye ointment or drops are also prescribed. Treatment must span at least four weeks in duration. All cats in a multi-cat home are typically treated for chlamydiosis when one cat is diagnosed with the infection since it is transmitted between cats who have close or direct contact with one another.
Chlamydiosis is an infection that mainly affects the eyes of cats. Though it can cause some serious complications, prompt treatment of the disease often leads to a full recovery. If you suspect your cat has an eye infection, take him to your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment.