Symptoms of Chlamydia in Cats

Chlamydia in cats is a bacterial infection that typically affects the eyes. It can cause conjunctivitis, or infection of the inner eyelids and sclera, or whites of the eyes. Here's what you should know about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of this common eye infection in cats.

Transmission of and Risk Factors for Feline Chlamydia

Feline chlamydia is responsible for up to 30% of feline conjunctivitis cases. The bacteria that cause feline chlamydia typically cannot survive very long away from a host, so this disease usually spreads by direct contact between an infected and an uninfected animal. Cats in shelters, boarding kennels and multi-cat households run a higher risk of contracting chlamydia. Chlamydia can infect cats of all ages, but kittens between the ages of 5 and 12 weeks are most vulnerable.

Symptoms of Feline Chlamydia

The first symptoms of chlamydia infection in cats are a watery discharge from the eyes and excessive squinting. The inner eyelids and whites of the eyes may become inflamed, and, as the infection worsens, discharge typically changes from clear and watery to thick and yellowish or greenish-yellow. The infection can spread to the respiratory tract, causing symptoms including:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Lethargy

Kittens and cats with suppressed immune systems may develop pneumonia as a result of chlamydia infection.

Diagnosing and Treating Chlamydia in Cats

Your vet will need a complete medical history and thorough physical examination to diagnose chlamydia in your cat. Bacterial cultures of eye discharge are typically all that's needed to confirm the diagnosis. If your cat suffers from FIV, feline leukemia, or feline calicivirus infection, tell your vet at the time of diagnosis. These conditions can make your cat more vulnerable to chlamydia infection, and they may alter your vet's planned course of treatment.

Antibiotics are typically administered to treat chlamydia in cats. Tetracycline is typically administered. If chlamydia affects only your cat's eyes, then topical antibiotics, applied directly to the eyes themselves, may successfully treat the infection. If the infection is severe or has spread to the upper or lower respiratory tract, then your cat may need oral or injectable antibiotic therapy.

Antibiotics typically bring about rapid improvement in chlamydia infection, though your cat will need to continue using them for up to three weeks, even after symptoms have disappeared. If your cat does not begin to improve rapidly with treatment, or if his condition seems to worsen in spite of treatment, contact your vet. Your cat may be suffering from an underlying viral infection that is hampering his recovery.

Preventing the Spread of Feline Chlamydia

If your cat has feline chlamydia, try to isolate him from other cats to avoid spreading the disease. Chlamydia spreads through direct contact with an infected animal, so isolate him physically from other cats. This bacterial infection is contagious to humans, so wash your hands thoroughly after handling your sick cat, and keep your sick cat away from:

  • children
  • the elderly
  • pregnant women
  • anyone else who may be suffering from compromised immunity