Feline Chlamydophila (Chlamydophila felis) causes conjunctivitis in the cat. There are many strains of chlamydophila; most of them are relatively species specific, meaning they only infect one species of animals. Up to 30% of cases of chronic conjunctivitis in cats are caused by bacteria C. felis. Although this infectious organism is not responsible for the full range of signs associated with cat flu.
Cats of all ages can be infected, but most commonly disease is seen in young kittens of 5 - 12 weeks old. The C.felis does not survive in the environment for any period of time and requires direct contact between cats to spread, that’s why this disease is more commonly seen in places where a lot of cats are kept together.
Symptoms and diagnostics:
Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the membranes (conjunctiva) that cover the eyelids. C. felis targets the conjunctival epithelium. Usually both eyes are affected, the illness might first affect only one eye, but in most cases both eyes are eventually involved. Clinical signs develop within a few days – week after infection. Infection begins as a watery discharge from one or both eyes. Due to discomfort cat may blink more than usual or keep the third eyelid partially closed. Swelling of the eyelid may develop; cat may rub the eyes with a paw, or rub their eyes into various objects. Third eyelid or the sclera is reddened, and also the discharge becomes thicker and yellow as the disease progress. Also there may be very mild sneezing and nasal discharge in some cats with a mild fever, lethargy, loss of appetite. Rarely, cats can develop a more serious feline upper respiratory disease with cough and breathing difficulty. In very young kittens, it can result in fatal pneumonia. Lameness and infertility may be associated with the chlamydiosis. If left untreated, the conjunctivitis may persist for 6 to 8 weeks and the bacteria may continue to be shed for many months.
It is important to differentiate the chlamydiosis from other potential causes of conjunctivitis, diagnosis requires demonstration of the presence of the chlamydia . Swabs can be taken from the eyes of an ill cat and sent to specialist laboratories where the presence of the organism can be identified by culture or other specialized tests.