Newly adopted kittens may suffer from upper respiratory or eye infections from any number of viruses and bacteria. One infectious agent that can cause squinting and discharge from affected eyes belongs in the family of Chlamydia bacteria.
Fortunately, this Chlamydia infection is different from the strain that causes pink eye in children. The feline organism is unlikely to be infectious to people, although rare cases of transmission from cat to human have been reported. Routine hygiene that includes hand-washing after picking up your kitten and eliminating face to face contact while your kitten is suffering from the disease is adequate.
Pets adopted from shelters or catteries where large number of cats are being held are most at risk. Eye medications that contain oxytetracycline and oral doxycycline can limit the infection but should be administered for at least 3 weeks. A few cats will have reoccurring or relapses and should be treated even longer.
Vaccines can be considered for shelters, but they are not routinely recommended for privately held pets that have only one or two members. Since the disease is fairly minor, the vaccine is considered non-core and should only be administered after discussing with your veterinarian.
In most cases, the disease does not warrant sampling to try to identify Chlamydia as the cause.
Questions? Send them to Dr. Sandeman, Home & Garden, Quad-City Times, 500 E. 3rd St., Davenport, IA 52801. Or, email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Sandeman cannot answer letters or email personally, but questions of general interest will be answered in this column.