Feline chlamydiosis Causes, symptoms and treatment

The feline chlamydiosis  relates to an eye infection caused by a type of bacteria known as  Chlamydophila felis .

There are many different strains of chlamydia-type bacteria, most of which are highly species-specific (each strain generally only infects one or a small number of different animals / species).

The bacteria that infect cats adapt very well to them, causing, above all,  eye disease and conjunctivitis in cats . Proper treatment can kill the bacteria and resolve all clinical signs.

What disease does Chlamydophila felis  cause  in cats?

Chlamydophila felis frequently causes  conjunctivitis in cats,  that is, inflammation of the tissues of the eye. This bacteria can also lodge in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and reproductive tract. Occasionally it can cause infertility in breeding cats. There is circumstantial evidence that Chlamydophila infection can cause abortion.

Many cats with  Chlamydophyll  can also suffer from a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, such as  Calicivirus or Cat Herpesvirus .

Symptoms of a cat infected with chlamydiosis

The incubation period for Chlamydophila infections is 2 to 5 days. At first, one eye may be affected, but within a few days the disease will affect both.

The pain and discomfort causes affected cats to keep their eyelids partially closed (blepharospasm) and, as the disease progresses, severe swelling and redness of the conjunctiva can be seen.

The discharge that starts out as a watery eye discharge, turns thicker yellowish, and occasionally the eye infection is accompanied by mild sneezing and a runny nose. Occasionally there is a slight fever that can cause lethargy and loss of appetite, but cats tend to stay alert and eat well. Respiratory signs are usually rare.

If left untreated, conjunctivitis can often persist for two months or more, and cats can continue to shed the bacteria in eye secretions for many months (and thus be a potential source of infection for other cats).


Diagnosis of Chlamydophila felis infection

Although some veterinarians treat chlamydiosis based on symptoms alone, diagnosis requires detection of the organism in a cat’s conjunctiva that shows the typical signs.

Smears of an eye swab will be examined under the microscope to check for the presence of infection by observing typical changes in conjunctival cells. 

For definitive diagnosis, swabs from the eyes of affected cats should be sent to a veterinary laboratory where the organism can be identified by culture or by molecular diagnostic techniques, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

It is also important to rule out other problems that produce similar symptoms, including a foreign body in the eye, corneal ulcers, entropion, and dystichia.

Which cats are most at risk for Chlamydophila infection?

The infection requires direct contact between cats to spread, so the disease is much more common when large groups of cats are kept together (multi-cat households, kennels and shelters, or in any environment where cats are in contact upcoming and new cats are regularly introduced).

Indirect contact through the environment or handling is not as likely to transmit infection, as the bacteria do not survive for long outside of a cat’s body.

Although cats of all ages can become infected, the disease is most commonly seen  in kittens 5 to 12 weeks of age,  purebred cats, cats with compromised immune systems, and those that are stressed due to disease or changes. in their environment. Kittens can become infected during childbirth.

Chlamydia must also be distinguished from other possible causes of conjunctivitis, such as feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus, and mycoplasmas. Conjunctivitis can also occur as a result of trauma, allergies, or other non-infectious reasons.

Treatment for cat eye chlamydia

A group of antibiotics known as  tetracyclines  is considered the best-performing treatment. The  doxycycline  cat  is one of these antibiotics and should only be given once a day. Other antibiotics may also work, but they are not as effective and must be given longer to achieve the same results as  doxycycline .

Treatment can be oral with tablets, since the bacteria can be in other parts of the body besides the eye. Topical treatment with drops or ointments is also advisable, as it can improve recovery and make the cat more comfortable.

Treatment should be followed for 3-4 weeks to safely eliminate the bacteria and, it is advisable, that all cats in the house are treated, to avoid massive contagion.

Hospitalization is sometimes necessary if other illnesses are present or if the upper respiratory infection is severe. Some kittens may need extra support in the form of IV fluids and rest.

As a  home remedy for feline chlamydiosis, it  can be useful to apply warm water compresses to the cat’s eyes several times a day, to reduce discomfort and keep the area clean.

In many countries there is a vaccine available to protect cats against Chlamydiosis. Infection is not always prevented, but it is helpful in preventing serious clinical disease. Although it is generally not suitable for most domestic cats, it can be useful in high-risk situations, such as kennels with persistent problems with the bacteria.

Feline chlamydia and human infection

Humans can be infected with  Chlamydophila Psittaci , but the bacterium that infects cats, Chlamydophila felis, is highly adapted to this species. There have been a few reports of human conjunctivitis after contact with a cat harboring Chlamydophila felis, but the risk appears to be extremely low.

To avoid risks, hygiene measures are recommended when handling and treating infected cats (washing hands after stroking or administering medications, and avoiding face-to-face contact until the infection has resolved).

Is chlamydiosis contagious to humans?

There are isolated reports of people living in the same household with affected cats developing conjunctivitis associated with feline chlamydiosis. Therefore, if someone in the family has symptoms, you should see your doctor and tell them that there is a feline chlamydiosis infection at home. In any case, this infection is extremely rare in humans and once diagnosed it is easily treatable.

You should take hygiene precautions when handling and treating infected cats (wash your hands after stroking or administering medications and avoid direct contact until the infection has resolved).


Chlamydiosis Prevention in Cats

Healthy cats should be kept separate from infected cats . If you have a cat with a chlamydophyll infection, keep her away not only from other cats, but also from young children and anyone with a compromised immune system. It is also convenient to wash your hands after touching your cat.

Human infections are rare and easy to treat. However, if you have an infected kitten and a family member develops eye pain or tearing, you should consult a doctor and indicate the presence of feline chlamydiosis at home.

There is a vaccine available for feline chlamydia, it does not prevent infection, it only reduces the severity of symptoms. Side effects include loss of appetite, depression, fever, lethargy, and lameness. It is a vaccine with risks that far outweigh the benefits.



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