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What is E. Coli Infection?

Healthy adult cats rarely experience issues related to E. coli, but kittens, older cats or those with compromised immune systems can become sick when exposed to the bacteria. The presence of pathogenic E. coli can make cats critically ill in several different ways. For example, the majority of feline urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by E. coli. Certain strains ofE. coli generate gastrointestinal problems. Intact female cats can develop the uterine infection pyometra, and newborn kittens can suffer from an extremely serious form of E. coli infection called colibacillosis.

Escherichia coli

, abbreviated as E. coli, is a bacterium that is common in the lower gastrointestinal tract of most mammals, including humans and cats. There are hundreds of different strains of E. coli, and the majority of them are not dangerous. E. coli is known to cause problems, however, when it enters parts of the body where it does not belong, or when a harmful strain of the bacterium is introduced to the system. Cats with E. coli infection can exhibit a variety of symptoms including lack of appetite, vomiting, urinary distress, excessive thirst, and fever. Because E. coli is a bacterial infection, and also because symptoms of illness caused by E. coli can vary greatly, laboratory tests are required in order to obtain a definitive diagnosis.

E. Coli Infection Average Cost

From 452 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$500

Symptoms of E. Coli Infection in Cats

E. coli

causes different types of infections, and symptoms will vary based on the strain and location of bacteria involved. 

Urinary tract infection

E. coli

is one of the most commonly diagnosed causes of UTIs in cats. Typical symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Urinating outside the litter box
  • Pain while urinating (sometimes indicated by vocalization)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Straining to urinate
  • Tenderness in the abdomen
  • Fever

Gastrointestinal

  • This type of E. coli infection is often caused by ingesting contaminated food, causing symptoms such as:
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea, sometimes with blood

Pyometra

A disorder of intact females, pyometra is a uterine infection that usually occurs after a heat cycle that did not result in pregnancy. Symptoms can be difficult to spot, but may include:

  • Lethargy
  • Poor appetite
  • Distended abdomen
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Increased thirst
  • Excessive panting

Colibacillosis

A condition seen in newborn kittens, colibacillosis is characterized by the sudden onset of symptoms including:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Low body temperature
  • Dehydration
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Causes of E. Coli Infection in Cats

While all E. coli infections are caused by an overgrowth of pathogenic strains of the bacteria, each manifestation of the disease has its own method of transmission. 

With UTIs, introduction of bacteria from the anus to the urinary tract is often thought to be caused by the routine act of a cat performing normal grooming, such as licking one spot and then the next. While this does not generally cause a problem, the bacteria may grow beyond normal proportions in older cats with weaker immunity, or those with underlying diseases.

Gastrointestinal E. coli can usually be traced to the ingestion of undercooked or raw foods. Outdoor cats who hunt and eat prey are particularly prone, but commercial pet foods are sometimes to blame. Raw meat diets can also be problematic, and many veterinarians warn against feeding raw meat.

Pyometra occurs when there is a bacterial overgrowth in the uterus triggered by hormonal changes. Pyometra has been known to arise even when no external source of exposure can be identified.

Newborn kittens sometimes develop colibacillosis after E. coli exposure, which can occur in a number of ways:

  • In utero (in the womb) via bacteria in the mother's system
  • During birth from bacteria in the birth canal
  • While nursing from infected mammary glands
  • When housed in unsanitary conditions
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Diagnosis of E. Coli Infection in Cats

If your cat is exhibiting symptoms of an E. coli infection, you should consider it a medical emergency and get your cat to your veterinarian immediately. DiagnosingE. coli infection requires laboratory tests, and time is of the essence. 

Your veterinarian will ask you to describe any symptoms that you have observed, and will need all of the history that you can provide. If your cat is female, the vet will want to know if she is spayed, pregnant, or nursing kittens. You may be asked whether your cat lives indoors or outdoors, what it eats, whether it is on any type of medication and for what condition. Your vet will perform a physical examination, including palpating your cat's abdomen to check for distended or thickened membranes of the intestines, uterus or bladder. Laboratory tests will be conducted to check for the presence of bacteria and to screen for potential underlying diseases. These tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Urinalysis
  • Fecal exam
  • Vaginal swab
  • X-rays
  • Ultrasound

Two additional steps that your veterinarian is likely to take to ensure an accurate diagnosis and eventual treatment are:

  • Bacterial culture to confirm the presence and type of bacteria
  • Antibiotic sensitivity test to find which antibiotic is most effective against the isolated bacteria

The last two steps are key, both because different types of bacteria besides E. coli can cause infection, and because some bacteria, including E. coli, are becoming resistant to certain strains of antibiotics. 

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Treatment of E. Coli Infection in Cats

Many cases of E. coli infection can be treated on an outpatient basis, with follow-up visits to check progress.

Antibiotics

Regardless of the location of the infection and the type of illness involved, antibiotics are the universal treatment choice. Simple infections require a normal course of antibiotics lasting 10 to 14 days. Complicated infections may need antibiotic treatment for up to six weeks.

Additional Treatments

More serious cases may require hospitalization, especially with very young kittens. Supportive therapies and additional procedures may be necessary, such as:

  • IV fluids for dehydration and hypoglycemia
  • Monitoring of body temperature to avoid hypothermia
  • Hand feeding or bottle feeding in place of nursing
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Recovery of E. Coli Infection in Cats

Ensuring your cat receives the full schedule of antibiotic treatment is critical. Stopping the medication too soon could result in a recurrence of the illness, or worse, contribute to antibiotic resistance. If the infection is a case of pyometra, spaying the intact female is urged. Cats with UTIs may need a prescription diet, and they should be encouraged to drink as much as possible, since more frequent urination will help keep bacteria flushed from the bladder and urinary tract. Outdoor cats with gastrointestinal E. coli should be brought indoors to eliminate the killing and eating prey, and raw meat should be avoided as a food source.

Your veterinarian will schedule follow-up visits to repeat some of the lab tests after the antibiotics have been administered to ensure that the bacteria is out of your cat's system.

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E. Coli Infection Average Cost

From 452 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$500

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E. Coli Infection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Gizmo

dog-breed-icon

Domestic shorthair

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

E.Coli Present

My five year old female cat was having urinary problems so we took her to our vet who ran a urinalysis (came back clean) and a urine culture which showed E.Coli. They gave her a shot during the visit of Convenia that lasts for 2 weeks but now they want me to bring her back in for another Convenia shot and another culture to be sure the infection is gone. Is another antibiotic shot necessary? Or should the first one be enough? Would it make more sense to do another culture first to see if the infection is still present before giving her any more antibiotics? I don’t want her to become desensitized to the antibiotics if a second round is not necessary.

Aug. 4, 2018

Gizmo's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Zoetis, the manufacturer of Convenia (cefovecin) indicates that for urinary tract infections in cats and dogs, a single dose of Convenia is normally sufficient; if there are concerns that your Veterinarian may have, they may administer another dose at their own discretion and multiple doses are well tolerated by cats. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.zoetis.co.nz/_locale-assets/doc/species-products/convenia-technical-brochure.pdf

Aug. 4, 2018

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Simon

dog-breed-icon

short hair

dog-age-icon

8 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Urinating
Urinating, Sluggish

My male cat was diagnosed with e-coli bacteria in his urine. Drug sensitivity test was done. He is on Batril for 3 weeks now. I would say he is 75% improved but not cured. How long can he stay on this before it becomes inefective? Should he continue until 100% cured and if so what tests should be done before stopping? He still urinates a lot and drinks around 3 cups of water a day. This has been going on since May!

July 21, 2018

Simon's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Another check (urinalysis) should be performed to determine whether there are any signs of infection in the urine, if the culture and sensitivity results came back with the infection being sensitive to Baytril (enrofloxacin) then that should clear it up. Once an infection has been ‘cured’ there may still be some inflammation after chronic infections; however have a normal urinalysis test performed to check for improvement and go from there. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 21, 2018

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Coco

dog-breed-icon

Ragdoll

dog-age-icon

19 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

More Frequent Urination....Vocalias
Raised Protein In Urine..Ecoli Foun

My ragdoll.cat has fip as a kitten he had bad diarrhea eventually vetdiagnosed and antibiotics cleared it up. Now 18 months he started.peeing outside litter box(even tho.he still.used it.too) o have two cats.the other outdoor so rarely uses.the box..its kept clean regular.litter change...coco.started peeing on the bed ..and out went 2 douvets..blankets etc and the he startwd using bathroom bathmat which before.was his gav place to lie on and play with his toys..my vet lost tye urine sample so after 10 days of chasing them for the result was last straw.so i changed.vets. Bloods sent off due to raised protein in initial.sample.and high gravity..bloods came.back clear.good.news.no serious probs with kidneys etc. Urine culture came back.showing ecoli and the vet asks.me.if i think we ahld treat with.antiobiotics !!! (Im.not the vet 🤔). He has been hiding away. (Not like him.as he likes.company)...licking rear.often...lots of vocalisation.and mire frequent trips.to.litter box. Prescribed a banana flavour antibiotic liquid Trimoxazole syrup gave his firat dose and he imediately starting coughing up loads of foaming phelm and was so distresses..ended up peeing again on my towel id put down in bathroom by shower cubicle. After calming him and cleaning him up he has eaten some food and is calm again. At my wits end as my trust in vets is at zero at the moment. Please help advise.

July 17, 2018

Coco's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

The use of co-trimoxazole (sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim) may result in some gastrointestinal upset if paediatric flavoured preparations are used; it would be important to treat the E. coli infection regardless with the antibiotic it is susceptible to on the culture and sensitivity test. You should try giving a more cat friendly version of the antibiotic and see how Coco responds to treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 18, 2018

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Riley

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Unknown

dog-age-icon

19 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Throwing Up
Throwing Up, Little Appetite

I have a 19 year old indoor cat named Riley. He has been diagnosed with e-coli. I have read a lot about the possible dangers with kittens. What about the dangers with an older cat, who other than suffering from depression after losing his best friend/brother (18 1/2 years together!), is in good health?

July 10, 2018

Riley's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

The presence of E. coli in a faecal sample isn’t surprising as it is a normal gastrointestinal inhabitant of healthy cats; it is only a concern if symptoms present or there is contamination of the urinary tract. I wouldn’t be too alarmed unless any symptoms present. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 11, 2018

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Zeke

dog-breed-icon

short hair

dog-age-icon

10 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing
Sneezing Mucous

My 9 month old kitten has had congestion and sneezing for months. After a few courses of antibiotics the vet flushed out his nasal cavities while under anesthesia. There was a great deal of mucous wit varying colors that was expelled. Lab results determined there was E. coli present. After a course of antibiotics for three weeks the sneezing stopped. However, one week later he has startedsnnezing again. I am looking for more insight into this.

May 5, 2018

Zeke's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 Recommendations

Zeke may have a persistent viral infection causing this problem, or an anatomic abnormality that is predisposing him to these infections. He may benefit from a long term supplement to help with viral disease like ViraLyz (there are many forms of this), or he may need different antibiotics based on the culture results. I hope that he is okay.

May 5, 2018

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TOULI

dog-breed-icon

Domestic long hair tabby

dog-age-icon

15 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Haematuria, Frequency

My 15 year old cat Touli, got a UtI, after she had 2 x cystocentesis which were gram and culture negative for bacteria and neg for leuc and rbc. A few days after the cysto she started developing symptoms of haematuria, frequency and urine microscopy fhowed large numbers of gram negative bacilli on a clean catch urine. She was started empirically on Clavamox amox/clav bd and her symptoms improved. Culture revealed e.coli bacteria. Is this likely from the cysto or a coincidence she had two normal cysto and then a ecoli UTi a week later? We xoukdnt do the cysto prior treating this time as it was night time when vet phoned with results and we had to start treatment so i just took a clean catch sample. Reason for cysto in first place was new onset proteinuria and low Spec gravity, to exclude a Uti . She is on pred for IBD maintenance

dog-name-icon

Fomo

dog-breed-icon

Pursian

dog-age-icon

6 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

My cat belongs to pursian breed is about 6 months old male. He had diarrhoea about a week a ago. It was light brown in colour n watery in consistency such every time he passed his motion he used to make himself dirty so that we had to wash him everytime. The frequency was initially 5-6 times a day. During this period he had absolutely normal diet(his normal diet was dry royal canine biscuits, processed whiskas fish With jelly, infrequently creamy treats),normal activity level, no fever, no vomiting. We took him to the vet , she gave him injection ceftriaxone for three days ,also took sample for stool culture and sensitivity. The report came after three days which showed that it was e coli infection resistant to ceftriaxone. Then vet started tazobactum for 5 days. During the whole course only changed happened that frequency became 3 times (normal was 2) but consistency of stool never returned to normal. She also kept on probiotics and oral rehydration therapy. Its been 10 days nothing has changed to normal. Stool frequency 4 times a day , light brown loose in consistency.

dog-name-icon

Athena

dog-breed-icon

Domestic shorthair

dog-age-icon

14 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic

My cat is going to be 14 years old this year in August, female domestic short hair calico. She has beginning stages of CKD with 1 kidney worse than the other. 2.5 years ago (Christmas 2016) she had a kidney stone blocking her ureter going from her good kidney to her bladder and became very ill. Had to take her to hospital and the put a SUB device in her. Since then she has been doing good, about 6 mos after the sub placement she developed UTI which they said could happen, and she was treated for 8 weeks with antibiotics via injection (Meropenem) and given a clean bill. I brought her back a week ago for a scheduled recheck and they again have detected E. Coli in her urine. She has been acting normally, eating fine, not vomiting, not in any type of pain when she urinates (No vocalization, doesn't strain to go). Is it possible for the E. Coli to be present and not affect her and should we not treat her with antibiotics unless she starts exhibiting symptoms? Or should they always be treated with antibiotics whenever E. Coli is detected in the urine? The only 'symptom' she has is she is lazy, but she is old and has been lazy for a long time so its not like it's anything new, and if you start to play with her she will play with you still and get rambunctious.

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Artemis Van De Kerselaar

dog-breed-icon

Maine Coon

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

No Symptons

Female went to the male twice-1st litter all kittens stillborn with deformations- 2nd litter, 4 kittens,2 kittens intestins outside, but still alive, 1 stillborn and 1 alive kitten.Male owner has E- colli and staphylococcus canis and felis. My female received a vaginal swab and is diagnosed as follows: Escherichia coli many many colonies 2. Staphylococcus chromogenes many colonies 3. Staphylococcus simulans many colonies Cultuur anaeroben No growth after 48 hours of incubation. Do we talk about an overgrowth for this female? Can this be the reason of the 2 bad litters? When do we talk about overgrowth for E-colli and what about the staphylococcus canis and felis?

dog-name-icon

Paris

dog-breed-icon

domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

11 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

My 11 year old spayed female has had incontinence for over 3 months now. Found out she has kidney disease and E coli. She was on baytril and the fowl smelling urine went away, but not the incontinence. Now its been 2 weeks since off the baytril and the fowl smelling urine came back. How safe is it to keep cats on baytrill for to get rid of E Coli??

E. Coli Infection Average Cost

From 452 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$500