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Bacterial Diseases in Cats


Campylobacteriosis is a disease that produces acute infectious diarrhea in kittens. It also occurs in catteries and shelter cats-most of whom are in poor condition and are suffering from other intestinal infections.

The bacterium is acquired by contact with contaminated food, water, uncooked poultry or beef, or animal feces. Campylobacter species can survive for up to five weeks in water or unpasteurized milk.

The incubation period for disease is one to seven days. Signs of acute infection include vomiting and watery diarrhea that contains mucus and sometimes blood. The disease usually runs its course in 5 to 15 days, but may be followed by chronic diarrhea in which bacteria is shed in the feces.

Treatment: Treat mild diarrhea. Keep the cat warm, dry, and in a stress-free environment. More severely affected cats will require veterinary management with intravenous fluids to correct dehydration. Antibiotics may be advisable. Erythromycin and ciprofloxacin are the current drugs of choice.

Public health considerations: Campylobacteriosis is a common cause of diarrhea in humans. Most human cases arise from contact with newly acquired kittens and puppies who are suffering from diarrhea. Parents should be aware that kittens with diarrhea may harbor zoonotic pathogens. Good hygiene is essential, especially for young children and people who are immunocompromised.


Bordetella bronchiseptica is a cause of upper respiratory infection in cats. This bacteria is present in normal, healthy cats as well, so it seems to be a problem secondary to viral upper respiratory infections. Rarely, pneumonia will develop.

This illness is more severe in young cats and in shelters or situations with crowding, poor ventilation, and stress. Clinical signs include lethargy, fever, anorexia, coughing, sneezing, discharges from the eyes and nose, and swollen lymph nodes under the chin. Difficulty breathing suggests pneumonia.

Treatment: Supportive care is important, with antibiotics if needed. An intranasal vaccine is available.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

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