This disease is caused by a type of bacteria that produces gastrointestinal
infection in susceptible animals. It tends to affect kittens housed in crowded,
unsanitary surroundings and cats whose natural resistance
has been weakened by a viral infection, malnutrition, or other stress.
Salmonella remain alive for many months or years in soil and manure. In cats,
the disease is acquired by consuming raw or commercially contaminated foods, by
licking animal manure off their feet or coats, or by making oral contact with
surfaces that have been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected cat. This bacterial infection
is a risk for cats fed a raw diet, unless excellent food-handling hygiene is
practiced at all times.
Signs of infection include high fever, vomiting and diarrhea (in 90
percent of cases), dehydration, and weakness. The stool may be
bloody and foul smelling. Dehydration develops when vomiting and diarrhea are
prolonged. Bacteria in the bloodstream can cause abscesses in the liver,
kidneys, uterus, and lungs. Conjunctivitis will be seen in
some cats. The acute illness, which lasts four to ten days, may be followed by
a chronic diarrhea that persists for more than a month. Death will occur in
about half of cases. Abortions have been reported.
Cats with kidney problems have a reduced ability to excrete waste products into their urine, leading to a potentially toxic build-up in the bloodstream. While some kidney problems occur suddenly, chronic kidney disease shows up more slowly over a period of time. Timely veterinary assessment with ongoing supportive care and dietary management can allow some cats with kidney problems to maintain an adequate quality of life.
Cats (and dogs) often are asymptomatic carriers. Bacteria shed in their
feces can, under appropriate conditions, produce active infection in domestic
animals and humans.
Diagnosis is made by identifying salmonella bacteria in stool cultures
(carrier state) or in the blood, feces, and infected tissues of cats suffering
Treatment: Mild, uncomplicated cases respond to correction of the
dehydration, vomiting, and diarrhea. Antibiotics (chloramphenicol,
amoxicillin, the quinolone class of antibiotics, and sulfa drugs) are reserved
for severely ill cats. Antibiotics can favor the growth of drug-resistant
salmonella species. When antibiotics are used, it is best to administer them
via injection and not orally. This will minimize the chances of the cat
developing resistant strains of this bacteria.
Intravenous fluids will be needed for severely ill cats. Even cats with mild
cases of this type of infectious diarrhea may need subcutaneous fluids and
replacement of electrolytes.
Prevention: Prevent the disease by housing cats in roomy, sanitary
conditions where they can be well cared for and properly fed.
Public health considerations: Since this is a disease that can spread to
people, excellent hygiene must be practiced when handling feces and cleaning