by Jackie C
(Syracuse, NY)




My 8 year old female (indoor cat) started exhibiting puffy eyes about three months ago. At my first visit with her to the vet he didn't know what might have caused it, he flushed her eyes, declared her well and sent us on our way. Second visit was due to the re-occurance of the puffy/shut eye(s) at which time he did bloodwork for Bartinella's disease. She was positive for it and we did the complete 21 day round of antibiotics (erythramyacin I think).

The symptoms came back a short time later and now in addition she has an unexplained limp and at the last visit to the vet she was running a slight fever. The vet did not find any inflamation in her paw or joints and the xray showed no breaks. She has been on another round of antibiotics (amoxycylin) and anti-inflamatory treatments but the symptoms have come back again. I'm getting frustrated with my vets lack of direction on this as she doesn't seem to know the cause plus my cat gets physically ill (excessive vomiting) from the car ride to and from the vet.

Please help, is this possibly still the Bartinella at play here or is there something even more serious going on?

Dear Jackie,

I understand your frustration. Was complete bloodwork evaluated or just the one test? A complete blood chemistry panel and CBC should be run if it wasn't.

Bartonella doesn't generally cause symptoms in cats. You are correct in stating that it is never truly "cured" forever. It remains in the body indefinitely. Also, many cats are positive for it and never really have the disease so a positive test is not necessarily diagnostic.

I would have Calici virus on my list of possibilities. I have seen many cats over the years with fever and conjunctivitis and a shifting leg lameness that have Calici virus. Symptomatic care is all that is needed and eventually the cat is completely recovered.

Herpes virus is another virus that most cats carry and is never eliminated from the body. The primary symptom is a recurring conjunctivitis. I am not aware of associated lameness. Of course, it is always possible that the lameness is totally unrelated and was a soft tissue injury from jumping down wrong or something like that.

FIP is another virus that can be hard to diagnose sometimes, but these symptoms don't really remind me much of FIP.

I don't think your vet is inadequate. There are many cat viruses that come and go or stick around and can cause the same symptoms or slightly different ones and because they are common in cats that are asymptomatic, the tests for these viruses are not usually reliable.

You should, however, have all of the above-mentioned testing if it has not been done already. Meanwhile, if the only problem is conjunctivitis and a little lameness in one leg, I would treat the eyes with topical eye antibiotic ointment and try to restrict exercise (as much as you can with a cat!) and give it some time.

I have seen many cases of conjunctivitis in cats that were very resistant to every antibiotic tried and took weeks or even months to go away, but finally did. I most often use Erythromycin opthalmic ointment or in more severe cases, Tobramycin.

Good Luck, Hang in There, My gut feeling is this will resolve. Thank you for writing,
Dr. Neely

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