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Blastomycosis in Cats

By: Dr. Rosanna Marsalla

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Other medical problems can cause symptoms similar to those encountered in cats with blastomycosis. Your vet will exclude these conditions as necessary before establishing a diagnosis of blastomycosis:

  • Other infectious diseases
  • Bacterial pneumonia
  • Brucellosis
  • Histoplasmosis
  • Coccidioidomycosis
  • Cryptococcosis
  • Nocardiosis
  • Actinomcyosis
  • Neoplasia (cancer)
  • Lymphosarcoma
  • Primary lung tumor
  • Tumor elsewhere in the body that has spread (metastasized) to the lungs
  • Heart failure
  • Heartworm disease
  • Systemic immune-mediated disease such as systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Nodular panniculitis
  • Lymphomatoid granulomatosis
  • Eosinophilic lung disease

    Blastomycosis is a systemic disease caused by a fungus (blastomyces dermatidis) present in the soil of certain geographic regions (Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio River valleys). Dogs and people are most commonly infected, but cats can develop systemic disease.

    Infection occurs by inhalation of spores from the "mycelial" form of the organism found in the environment, especially moist soil. After the organism becomes established in the lung, dissemination throughout the body occurs. Blastomycosis is endemic in the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio River valleys.

    The "yeast" form of the organism (found in infected body tissues) is not contagious, and thus the disease is not readily transmissible between animals or from animals to people.

    The prognosis depends on the extent and severity of lung involvement. Blastomycosis affects the lungs (80 percent of cases), eyes (40 percent of cases), skin (20 to 40 percent of cases), and bones (30 percent of cases).

    Most affected animals have systemic symptoms such as fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Lung involvement leads to respiratory symptoms such as exercise intolerance, cough, and difficulty breathing.

    The animal's peripheral lymph nodes often are enlarged (found under the neck, in the shoulder region and behind the knee). Bone involvement may occur and result in lameness. Infection of the urogenital tract (e.g. the prostate gland in males) ccasionally may occur and cause clinical symptoms (e.g. blood in the urine, difficult urinations). Nervous system involvement may cause seizures, uncoordination, head tilt, and other symptoms.

    Eye involvement can lead to squinting due to pain and light sensitivity. Involvement of the retina may lead to blindness. Involvement of the iris of the eye may be complicated by glaucoma (i.e. high pressure within the eye). Draining nodules may be found in the skin, and microscopic examination of this material often discloses the organism and yields a diagnosis.

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