Mycoplasma in Dogs

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Mycoplasma is a bacterial organism that is capable of infecting humans, animals, plants and insects. It can affect multiple organs and in turn, create a wide array of associated disorders.

Any one of several serotypes (subtypes) of Mycoplasma can cause illness. This infection is seen in both dogs and cats. Mycoplasma is occasionally found in healthy dogs without causing disease. There is no sex, breed or age predilection.

Stress, concurrent disease, immunodeficiency/immunosuppression (poorly functioning or underactive immune system) and cancer may render an individual more susceptible to disease from Mycoplasma.

The impact on the pet can vary from a complete absence of signs to severe disease.

What to Watch For

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Sniffling
  • Straining to urinate
  • Blood in urine
  • Frequent urination
  • Abortion
  • Infertility
  • Arthritis
  • Colitis (bloody/mucoid diarrhea)
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Skin abscesses

    Diagnosis

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Biochemical profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Screening chest and abdominal X-rays
  • Culture and isolation of the organism
  • Serologic testing, or blood tests that measure antibodies or the bodies response to an organism

    Treatment

  • Depending on the severity of clinical signs, treatment options may include out-patient care or may necessitate hospitalization.

  • Supportive care, to include fluid and electrolyte therapy may be indicated.

  • Antibiotic therapy is indicated.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Administer all medication and return for follow-up as directed by your veterinarian. Prognosis is generally good in otherwise healthy animals.

    There is currently no vaccine available to prevent Mycoplasma infection. The organism is readily killed by drying, sunshine and chemical disinfection.

  • Mycoplasma is a bacteria that can affect any age or breed of dog. It is not unusual for pets to have no symptoms; Mycoplasma has been isolated from healthy dogs. Several risk factors may render an individual more susceptible to Mycoplasma, including overall health status and environment, concurrent disease or administration of certain medications, such as corticosteroids and chemotherapy, that cause suppression of the immune system. Many systems can be affected by Mycoplasma, and in turn, a variety of clinical scenarios. Because the signs are so variable, many disorders must initially be considered.

    A host of infectious agents that cause respiratory signs need to be differentiated from Mycoplasma. These include:

  • Other bacteria (Bordatella bronchiseptica, coliforms, Staphylococci, Streptococci)
  • Viral (parainfluenza virus, canine distemper)
  • Fungal (Histoplasma, Pythium, Aspergillus)

    Disorders that cause abortion, infertility, stillbirths or weak newborns need to be differentiated from Mycoplasma. These include:

  • Bacteria (Brucella, Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli, Streptococcus)
  • Viruses (canine herpesvirus, canine distemper, canine adenovirus)
  • Toxoplasma gondii
  • Endocrine disorders (hypothyroidism)
  • Drug/medication administration: chemotherapy, hormones, certain antibiotics
  • Severe stress/trauma

    Disorders that cause arthritis must be ruled out. These include:

  • Immune-mediated polyarthritis
  • Bacteria (Staphylococci, Streptococci, coliforms, anaerobes)
  • Rickettsia (Ehrlichia, Borrelia burgdorferi)
  • Fungal (Coccidioides, Cryptococcus, Blastomyces)
  • Protozoa (Leishmania)

    Diseases that cause renal or urologic disorders must be considered. These include:

  • Urinary or genital tract infections
  • Balanoposthitis (inflammation of the penis and prepuce)
  • Urethritis (inflammation of the urethra)
  • Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate)
  • Cystitis (inflammation of the bladder)
  • Vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina)
  • Nephritis (inflammation of the kidney)
  • Endometritis (inflammation of the uterus)

    Diseases that cause conjunctivitis must be considered. These include:

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria

  • Diagnosis In-depth

    Certain tests must be performed for a definitive diagnosis of Mycoplasma infections and to exclude other disease processes that may cause similar symptoms. A complete history, description of clinical signs and thorough physical examination are all an important part of obtaining a diagnosis. In addition, the following tests are recommended to confirm a diagnosis:

  • A complete blood count (CBC) may be within normal limits, but it may reveal mild anemia (low red blood cell count), and/or elevated white blood cell count.

  • A biochemical profile will help evaluate the kidney, liver, protein and electrolyte status. Although often within normal limits, it is helpful to rule out other disorders that may mimic Mycoplasma.

  • A urinalysis helps to evaluate the kidneys and level of hydration. Some individuals may have proteinuria (protein in the urine) if the kidneys are involved.

  • Chest and abdominal X-rays are recommended in most cases. Although often within normal limits, they may help to rule out other diseases or confirm changes that relate to Mycoplasma infection, such as pneumonia.

  • Serologic testing may be helpful in diagnosing Mycoplasma. It necessitates a blood test, which reveals a value measuring the strength of a reaction between certain substances in the body. High values may be suggestive of Mycoplasma infection.

  • Cultures specific for Mycoplasma can be obtained from affected tissue or fluid. Special care needs to be taken in sampling, handling and shipping, as Mycoplasma is a delicate organism and can be difficult to isolate.

    Your veterinarian may require additional tests to insure optimal medical care. These are selected on a case by case basis:

  • Arthrocentesis is recommended in cases where joint involvement is present. It is a simple procedure that is performed by introducing a needle into the joint cavity to retrieve fluid for analysis and culture. This may rule out other causes of arthritis or have changes consistent with a diagnosis of Mycoplasma infections. This procedure can generally be performed by your local veterinarian.

  • Transtracheal washes are recommended in those patients with pneumonia. It is a simple procedure that allows us to evaluate cells and sometimes causative agents involved with pneumonia. This procedure can generally be performed by your local veterinarian.

    Therapy In-depth

    Appropriate therapy for Mycoplasma infections varies according to the type and severity of clinical illness. Depending on the severity of clinical signs and/or stage of disease, hospitalization may or may not be recommended. Patients who are severely ill and dehydrated are hospitalized for aggressive treatment and stabilization. Stable patients can be treated as outpatients as long as they are monitored closely for response to therapy. With appropriate therapy, most patients do quite well. It is very important that all recommendations by your veterinarian are followed very closely, and any questions or concerns that arise during the treatment protocol are addressed immediately.

    Therapy may include:

  • Antibiotic therapy is of utmost importance in these patients. The most common antibiotics used are tetracycline, choramphenicol, tylosin and erythromycin. It is important to treat for an extended time period to eradicate infection completely.

  • Intravenous fluids

  • Optimal treatment for your pet requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be critical, especially if your pet does not rapidly improve. Administer all prescribed medication as directed. Alert your veterinarian if you are experiencing problems treating your pet.

    Observe your pet's general activity level, appetite and general demeanor and monitor for any recurrence of signs, suggestive of reinfection.

    Prognosis is good in animals with a competent immune system given appropriate therapy.

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