What is Salmonella Infection?
Salmonella is found worldwide, can infect various animals, and is a zoonotic disease that can be transmitted to humans. Because your pets can pass this infection to you it is important to be knowledgeable about the condition and to minimize the risk of infection.
The veterinary term for Salmonella infection in cats is salmonellosis. Salmonellosis is a bacterial infection that can cause numerous illness in cats. Nearly 2,000 types of Salmonella bacteria exist and live in the intestinal tract of their host. Salmonella infection leads to inflammation of the intestine (enteritis) and infection of the blood (septicemia).
Symptoms of Salmonella Infection in Cats
If your cat has contracted Salmonella, some of the symptoms you witness may include:
- Mucus in feces
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- High fever
- Lack of appetite (anorexia)
- Swelling of the lymph nodes
- Rapid heart rate
- Skin disease
- Vaginal discharge
- Blood loss
Salmonellosis can lead to enteritis (or gastroenteritis), which is inflammation of the intestines. It can also cause septicemia, a systemic disease brought on by the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream.
Symptoms of gastroenteritis include:
- Severe vomiting
- Severe diarrhea
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Lack of appetite
Symptoms of septicemia include:
- Extremely low blood pressure
- Rapid breathing
- Paleness of gums
- Problems breathing
- Vaginal discharge
- Foul anal odor
- Licking rear end
- Distended abdomen
Causes of Salmonella Infection in Cats
Cats contract salmonellosis from contact with other infected animals, both by killing and eating them or through contact with their feces. Salmonella bacteria can also survive on surfaces and contaminate both raw and processed food. Kittens and elderly cats, and cats with a weakened immune system, are more susceptible to a salmonella infection and may experience more severe symptoms.
Cats that are on antibiotic therapy are also at an increased risk since antibiotics destroy some of the good bacteria in the stomach and intestines, leaving them more vulnerable to infection.
If you suspect your cat has a Salmonella infection, you should not only have it diagnosed, but also take care cleaning the litter box and keep food and water bowls clean. Wearing gloves when doing these tasks can prevent contracting the bacterial infection yourself.
Diagnosis of Salmonella Infection in Cats
The veterinarian will do stool and urine tests and blood work to determine if a salmonellosis is at fault or if there is another cause for your cat’s symptoms. Other similar illnesses that could cause similar symptoms include e.coli infection, food allergies, and drug or toxin ingestion.
In order to diagnose salmonellosis, your doctor will look for the following:
- Low blood platelet levels
- Abnormal white blood cell count
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Low albumin (a type of protein)
Treatment of Salmonella Infection in Cats
Your cat will be treated with an antimicrobial medication on an outpatient basis. If the infection caused severe dehydration or sepsis, the cat will need to stay at the clinic for care. Treatments for dehydration involve replacing electrolytes and fluids. Treatment for sepsis may additionally include medications for pain and nausea and the use of a feeding tube.
Gastroenteritis causes an irritation in the stomach and the intestines, and leads to diarrhea and vomiting. This causes dehydration that can get out of control quickly. The treatment for this problem starts with rehydration and replenishment of electrolytes. The best method depends on the severity of the dehydration, and may involve fluid being given orally, subcutaneously, or intravenously.
Recovery of Salmonella Infection in Cats
Be sure to administer any medications sent home as recommended by the vet. Your pet may also need to refrain from eating for up to 48 hours, which will help it keep from vomiting. When the cat is able to eat again you may be required to feed a bland diet for some time as the stomach recovers. You will need to change the way you're feeding your cat if you normally give raw foods.
You will need to take your cat in for follow-up appointments to monitor recovery. You vet may test stool samples to ensure that the infection is out of the cat’s system. A thorough cleaning and disinfection of your home may be necessary to reduce the risk of humans and other pets developing salmonellosis.