Campylobacteriosis in Cats

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Overview of Feline Campylobacteriosis

Campylobacteriosis, commonly referred to as “campy” or “Campybacter”, is a common cause of enteritis (intestinal inflammation) in man and several animal species, including dogs and cats. The disorder is caused by a bacterium, Campylobacter jejuni.

Below is an overview of Campylobacteriosis in Cats followed in-depth detailed information on the diagnosis and treatment of this condition. 

The conditions associated with an increased risk of developing campylobacteriosis are:

  • Animals with diarrhea
  • Young animals
  • Crowded housing conditions
  • Poor sanitation
  • Stressful conditions, such as pregnancy, surgery, or other illness
  • Concurrent infection with other intestinal pathogens such as parvovirus, Salmonella, Giardia or parasites
  • Campylobacteriosis is a leading cause of intestinal disease in people. Kittens can serve as a source of infection for humans. In many cases, cats are carriers of the organism, but show no clinical signs. When clinical signs are present in dogs and cats, it is usually in animals younger than six months of age.

    What to Watch For

  • Diarrhea
  • Partial loss of appetite
  • Occasional vomiting
  • Diagnosis of Campylobacteriosis in Cats

  • Microscopic examination of feces
  • Culture
  • Serology
  • Treatment of Campylobacteriosis in Cats

  • Antibiotics
  • Supportive care
  • Home Care and Prevention

    There is no home care for campylobacteriosis. If your pet develops severe diarrhea, contact your veterinarian.

    Avoid conditions that have been associated with spread of the disease. Isolate animals with diarrhea and improve sanitation in kennels and boarding facilities. Avoid stress and practice good hygiene, such as hand-washing after coming into contact with animals that have diarrhea.

    In-depth Information on Campylobacteriosis in Cats

    Campylobacter jejuni is a bacterium that is routinely associated with diarrheal disease in dogs, cat and humans. In the past few years, Campylobacter jejuni has emerged from obscurity as a veterinary pathogen to recognition as a leading cause of enteritis in human beings.

    Cats maintained in kennels and catteries, laboratories, and animal shelters have a much higher likelihood of harboring the organism than privately owned dogs and cats. The organism has been isolated from only 4 percent of clinically healthy dogs and cats. It has been isolated, however, in 21 percent of cats with diarrhea, and 29 percent of dogs with diarrhea. Puppies and kittens are more likely to acquire Campylobacter jejuni and develop diarrhea because of a lack of previous exposure and development of antibodies that protect them from disease.

    The principal means of transmission is by fecal-oral spread, especially via food and water. Contaminated meat and unpasteurized milk are other common sources of infection.

    The severity of the disease caused by the organism depends on the number of organisms ingested, as well as the immune status of the infected animal. Other intestinal pathogens, such as parvovirus, coronavirus, Giardia, and Salmonella, may play a synergistic role in the disease.

    Cats can carry the organism but not show any signs of disease. This is common. If clinical signs do develop, they occur most frequently in dogs younger than 6 months. Stress, such as that due to concurrent disease, hospitalization, pregnancy, or surgery can make animals more susceptible to clinical disease. The main clinical sign of illness is diarrhea, ranging from mild loose feces, to watery diarrhea, to diarrhea containing blood and mucus. The acute form that often affects puppies (and occasionally adult dogs) causes mucus-laden watery diarrhea, often accompanied by decreased appetite and occasional vomiting. Fever may also occur. In some cases, the diarrhea may last several weeks, may be intermittent, and may even last for several months.

    Diagnosis In-depth

    The three main ways to diagnose campylobacteriosis is by using microscopic examination, culture and serology.

  • Microscopic examination. A rapid, presumptive diagnosis may be achieved by examining fresh fecal samples for curved bacteria with a characteristic darting movement, or by examining stained slides for lightly staining, “gull wing” shaped slender bacteria.
  • Culture. Swabs of fresh feces can be sent to a commercial laboratory in an attempt to isolate and grow the organism.
  • Serology. In humans, a variety of techniques are available to detect serum antibodies to Campylobacter. At this time, no studies have been performed in dogs and cats to evaluate the importance of antibody levels as an indicator of infection in dogs and cats with or without diarrhea.

    Therapy In-depth

  • Antibiotics. In some cases of severe diarrhea in dogs and cats, antibiotic therapy may be warranted, especially for the purpose of minimizing the exposure of humans and other pets in the household. Fortunately, strains of Campylobacter are susceptible to many antibiotics, especially erythromycin and tetracycline.
  • Supportive care. Severely affected animals may need to be hospitalized and given supportive care, such as intravenous fluids, diets that are bland or that contain high fiber content in an attempt to resolve the diarrhea.
  • Follow-up Care for Cats with Campylobacteriosis

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