What is Helicobacter Stomach Infection?
If your cat begins to exhibit symptoms of a stomach infection, he will most likely need to be treated with antibiotics and other prescription medications. To avoid excessive weight loss and malnutrition, take your cat to a vet as soon as possible.
Helicobacter bacteria exist within the stomach lining of cats and other small animals. Although this type of bacteria can lead to serious illnesses in humans, in most cases, the presence of this bacteria will not affect your cat’s health. However, some cats may develop infections and begin exhibiting symptoms such as vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Symptoms of Helicobacter Stomach Infection in Cats
Some cats may exhibit no symptoms of a stomach infection caused by Helicobacter bacteria, so it can be difficult for owners to spot and vets to diagnose. However, other cats will show signs of an illness, including:
- Abdominal pain or soreness
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- General fatigue and weakness
A few different species of the Helicobacter bacteria can cause infections in the stomach, including:
- Helicobacter pylori
- Helicobacter felis
- Helicobacter heilmannii
Causes of Helicobacter Stomach Infection in Cats
It is unclear how the Helicobacter bacteria is transmitted between cats, however, many veterinary experts believe it can be transmitted when a cat consumes fecal matter of an infected animal. It is also unclear whether the bacteria can be transmitted between humans and cats, however, many believe it is possible. Once the bacteria is transmitted, it will travel through the gastrointestinal system and begin to dig through the lining of the stomach, causing discomfort and various other symptoms.
Diagnosis of Helicobacter Stomach Infection in Cats
It is very difficult to diagnose a stomach infection caused by Helicobacter bacteria, so vets are often forced to make a diagnosis after eliminating all other possible causes. Be sure to talk to the vet about what symptoms you have observed, and whether you have made any major changes to the cat’s diet.
The vet may begin by performing basic tests including a complete blood count, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile. This will help the vet get a clearer picture of the cat’s overall health, and should show an elevated level of white blood cells, indicating an infection.
Then, the vet may perform an endoscopy, which involves placing a thin tube with a light and camera into the cat’s gastrointestinal system. This procedure allows the vet to see the stomach lining up close, and helps eliminate other possible causes of discomfort such as ulcers, cysts, or blockages. During the procedure, the vet may take a sample of the stomach lining. This sample will be placed under a microscope so the vet can look for worms or bacteria. Further tests may be performed on the sample, including a rapid urease test, touch cytology, or a bacterial culture.
In some cases, the vet may not be able to confirm that it is a stomach infection caused by Helicobacter bacteria. However, if no other causes are discovered after tests have been run, the vet may treat your cat for a stomach infection anyway.
Treatment of Helicobacter Stomach Infection in Cats
When a Helicobacter is present in humans, treatment is always necessary to prevent further health complications, however, this is not the case for cats. Vets do not need to treat this type of stomach infection unless it is causing unpleasant symptoms such as vomiting, pain, fatigue, or loss of appetite.
The vet may use an IV for fluid replacement if your cat has been vomiting excessively as a result of the infection. This is just a short-term treatment, however, and you should be able to take your cat home with you right after the visit. If the infection has gone untreated for a long period of time and your cat has lost a lot of weight as a result, the vet may use a feeding tube to help him regain his strength.
The most common treatment for Helicobacter infections is a combination of prescription medications. Your cat may be given an antacid as well as two different antibiotics to treat the infection. The antibiotics will help fight the bacteria, while the antacid will reduce the amount of acid present in the stomach to relieve the unpleasant symptoms. If the vet notices extreme stomach lining inflammation while performing the endoscopy, he may prescribe a steroid to reduce the inflammation.
The vet may also ask that you change your cat’s diet for the next few weeks to alleviate discomfort.
Recovery of Helicobacter Stomach Infection in Cats
You may need to change your cat’s diet after a stomach infection diagnosis, so be sure to ask your vet for specific instructions on what foods you should give to your cat.
The medications prescribed by the vet are typically given for a period of ten days to two weeks. Be sure to administer the medications as advised by the veterinarian and bring your cat back in for a follow-up visit after you have finished the medication. The vet may retest your cat’s stomach lining to determine if there the bacteria is still present. It’s completely possible that your cat will still test positive for the bacteria even after receiving medication. However, if the bacteria is present but the cat is no longer exhibiting symptoms, further treatment may not be necessary.