As colibacillosis is an acute condition, most affected kittens need to be hospitalized for emergency treatment. Good nursing care is required, with balanced fluids administrated by injection to restore body fluids. To treat diarrhea, a glucose solution will be administrated by mouth. Antibiotics can be prescribed initially based on the observed symptoms, and may be changed, if necessary, according to the results of the bacterial culture and sensitivity testing of E. coli.
Unfortunately, because of a newborn kitten's undeveloped immune system, treatment is often not successful and the newborn may succumb to death rapidly. Therefore, prompt treatment and supportive care is essential for saving the kitten's life.
Living and Management
Restricted activity, cage rest, monitoring, and warmth should be provided during the recovery period. To maintain an adequate nutritional level, bottle feeding or intravenous nutrients may be advised. This is necessary if the mother's mammary glands or blood are infected. Otherwise, it is preferable to have the kittens drinking their own mother's milk in order to benefit from the antibody rich milk.
During the recovery period, your veterinarian will take blood samples to run bacterial blood culture testing to determine the status of the infection. Home care will involve monitoring your kitten's body temperature and watching for any changes in health so that you can contact your veterinarian immediately for guidance. Once your kitten has stabilized and is out of danger, further treatment will depend on how the kitten progresses.
To prevent E. coli infection, make sure that your breeding, pregnant, or nursing queen is in good health and nutritional status. The birthing environment should be kept clean and sanitized, and bedding should be replaced frequently after the birthing (the linens that were used for the birthing should be discarded in a sanitary manner, as in most states they are considered hazardous waste material).
The most important safeguard for preventing E. coli infection in kittens is to allow them full access to their mother's colostrum (the first milk after birth). In addition, you must always wash your hands and change your outer clothing and shoes before dealing with newborn kittens in deference to their developing immune system. This is a general rule, but is especially important after handling other cats or animals.
Image: Sarah Fields Photography
The glands in female animals that are used to produce milk; also called the udder or breast
A condition of the blood in which micro-organisms or harmful toxins are present in the system
The hollow bodily organ that holds the embryo and fetus and provides nourishment; only found in female animals.
Not being able to cause harm; the opposite of malignant.
The singular form of the word bacteria; a tiny, microscopic organism only made up of one cell.
A protein in the body that is designed to fight disease; antibodies are brought on by the presence of certain antigens in the system.
The end of the gastrointestinal tract; the opening at the end of the tract.
Term used to imply that a situation or condition is more severe than usual; also used to refer to a disease having run a short course or come on suddenly.