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Pasteurella in Cats

Posted June 01, 2015 in Cat Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Cat playing with hand

A recent Pasteurella outbreak is responsible for killing many thousands of the saiga antelope (click here to learn more). This may have you wondering what Pasteurella is, and if other animals (including your cats) are at risk. Here I will discuss Pasteurella and explain the dangers.

What is Pasteurella?
Pasteurellosis is not a new disease but it’s one you may not be familiar with. Named after Louis Pasteur, the disease was first isolated by him around 18801.

Pasteurella sp are a genus of zoonotic bacteria (meaning they can be passed between animals and people). There are a number of species and sub species, but all are quite similar2. They are a natural inhabitant of the skin, digestive tract and oral cavity of cats, but can cause disease under the right conditions. The bacteria can spread from cat to cat when aerosolized (by way of coughing or sneezing). It can also spread through bite wounds (when saliva enters open wounds). The result can be abscesses or an infection in the blood stream (septicemia) which can result in serious or even fatal repercussions.

What kind of disease does Pasteurella cause in cats?
Pasteurella may cause:

  • A lower-respiratory-tract infection (pneumonia) which is often fatal.
  • Ear infections
  • Nasal and sinus infections
  • Eye infections
  • Joint infections
  • Infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord

How is Pasteurellosis spread among cats?
Because the organism lives in the mouth, it can be readily spread by bite wounds or by licking open wounds. This leads to wound infections and even abscesses and deep infections.

Click here to learn more about the dangers of cat bites.

Is Pasteurella contagious from cats to people?
Yes, the organism that causes canine pasteurellosis is very capable of infecting humans. It is always important to consult your physician if you have received a bite wound.

How is Pasteurella diagnosed and treated?
The organism can be isolated by culturing the involved tissue. Your veterinarian may run tests to determine the most effective antibiotic to use, but, in general, penicillin is effective2.  Other antibiotics of value may be recommended by your veterinarian.

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.