Let’s take my new love, Gigi Ta, as a case study for a bit. She is amenable to pretty much any kind of attention.
Gigi Ta came in to the Dane County Humane Society as a very young found kitten, already sick with URI (upper respiratory infection) — goopy nose, red, swollen eyes… the whole bit. After several rounds of treatment she wasn’t responding. Maybe a little time in foster care? Generally, we are able to turn those babies around pretty quickly at our house with some extra space, stress free living, and special care. But Gigi’s URI was tough. This picture is NOT the Creature from the Black Lagoon!
She was bright, active, and eating great, but she just couldn’t shake it despite a wide array of treatment trials, steam showers, and even nebulizers (a vaporizer that provides ‘mist’). Sometimes we’d see some nice improvement and then, just after we stopped treatment, the goo and conjunctivitis would just come streaming back.
What to do? We could do some diagnostic testing! Idexx offers an excellent Feline Respiratory rtPCR panel that would tell us what pathogens were present. Idexx offers special pricing for shelters requesting this panel. We wouldn’t want to run it for every case of URI, but this one stands out. If we saw a pattern of cats with similar signs in a shelter or foster home, we’d be concerned.
Why would we want to know? Gigi’s swollen conjunctiva and her other respiratory clinical signs, along with her pattern of recurrence (especially in foster care where stress is low) suggested an infection with a bacteria called Chlamydophila felis. The shelter doesn’t use a vaccine product with Chlamydophila so there wouldn’t be any chance of a false positive from a vaccine. From studies the KSMP has done in shelters, we know Chlamydophila felis isn’t one of the most common pathogens for shelter cat URI. When we do see it, it is often associated with husbandry issues like crowding and poor transmission control. We don’t know where Gigi was before the shelter … but it looks like life was hard. Chlamydophila requires targeted antibiotics (to check out what kind of antibiotics are often used in shelters, click HERE) and a longer course of treatment (putting foster parents more at risk of falling in love!) … so it is a good thing to have in mind for those cats who improve with short-term treatment and then relapse once treatment stops.
You can read more about treatment options for URI on the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program website HERE.
So we set out on a longer course of treatment. It worked, but it took so long…well, I already told you about that in the last post. 😉 No posting on Craigslist or the shelter website for Gigi Ta … no need to describe how perfect she is to entice others … but thank heavens we did still get a chance to post her pictures on the Internet right here. Success right? Not foster ‘failure’ — although now we do have to wait on new foster kittens just a bit!
Just look one post back if you want to see her ‘after’ picture! 🙂