Salmonella in Cats

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Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause an infection in felines known as enteritis or salmonellosis. The bacteria will be lodged in the pet’s intestinal tract and will cause various symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea in weaker pets. Even if salmonella is uncommon in felines and will rarely cause complications, it’s important to be aware of this condition and to know that it can be contagious to humans.

Symptoms of Salmonella Infection in Cats

Cats typically get this infection from saliva or feces of other infected animals, or from ingesting contaminated meat or foods. The salmonella infection, or salmonellosis, is an infection that will affect the intestinal tract. The intestinal mucosa will be irritated and red, but this is only visible if the cat is taken for tests. There will be more visible symptoms that include:

  • Chronic vomiting
  • Chronic diarrhea (the feces may become very liquid and the cat may eliminate in unusual places, not in his litter box)
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes (which indicates that the bacteria have invaded the blood stream)
  • Elevated fever
  • Lack of appetite and weight loss
  • General state of weakness
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Lethargy
  • Enlarged liver, only in advanced infections
  • Abortion in pregnant felines

The incubation period if between 2 and 4 days and the symptoms occur after this time. The infection is rarely seen in cats and only a few pets will display symptoms. Kittens and cats with a weaker immune system will be more likely to present symptoms. Most felines will only be carriers of the bacteria and there won’t be any clinical symptoms. However, the infection can be shed and this can infect other pets and humans. The presence of the bacteria can be detected by a vet.

Diagnosing a Cat Salmonella Infection

Bacteria cultures and rectal swabs will be needed for a proper diagnosis. The pet’s symptoms may easily point to a different type of infection or to another bacterial infection that needs to be identified.

Treatment Options for a Cat with Salmonella

If the cat presents symptoms, antibiotic treatment will be started. However, if the pet is only a carrier and has immunity to the bacteria, the vet may decide to avoid antibiotics. In kittens or severely dehydrated cats, IV fluid administration will be also recommended as part of the treatment. After the treatment, the cat has to be tested to see if he sheds the bacteria.

Prevent Salmonella Infections in Your Family

The salmonella bacteria can be transmitted to humans, as the infection is zoonotic. For this reason, it’s important to avoid direct contact with the cat’s feces and saliva. The salmonella bacteria can be shed in the saliva and feces. Bleach kills the salmonella bacteria, so make sure to disinfect the pet’s environment.

However, the bacteria can also be present in certain meats that come from infested animals such as birds. Cooking the meat properly at elevated temperatures is essential to kill all harmful bacteria.


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