Anthrax in Cats

Overview of Feline Anthrax

Though anthrax has recently been brought to the public’s attention, it is actually one of the oldest recorded infectious diseases. When an outbreak occurs, concerned cat owners ask about the risk of Anthrax to cats which we will discuss in this article. 

Anthrax is caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis, anthrax outbreaks periodically occur throughout the United States, but since it usually affects horses, cattle, sheep and goats, there is little media coverage. Typically, an outbreak will occur after periods of drought followed by heavy rains. There are several areas within the United States that are considered endemic with anthrax.

Anthrax affects all warm-blooded animals, including humans. Anthrax is a bacterial infection that has been reported all over the world. The bacteria is very resistant to heat, chemical and environmental changes due to its ability to become encapsulated in a spore. These spores then live in the soil, waiting to be inhaled or ingested by grazing livestock.

Horses and livestock are most often affected, but dogs and cats can become infected, despite their natural relative resistance to the bacteria. Though inhalation is the cause of the recent human cases, cats are most often infected after ingesting meat from a carcass infected with anthrax. Other routes of infection include inhalation as well as migrating through the skin.

Once the bacteria enters the body, it begins to invade body tissues. If not treated, the bacteria continues to multiply and then begins to release a toxin. Infected cats initially develop swelling of the throat and gastrointestinal disease. Without treatment, facial swelling occurs, the bacteria spreads and the animal succumbs to kidney failure, shock and respiratory failure. From the time of exposure to development of symptoms, 3 to 7 days have passed.

Anthrax is a disease with zoonotic potential. This means the disease can be passed from animal to humans, but the disease is not as communicable as a virus. The anthrax spores are the contagious part of the disease. To become a spore, the anthrax bacteria must be exposed to oxygen.

This means that direct contact with a contaminated animal does not automatically result in an infection. A person must be in contact with the infected animal’s bodily fluids or abnormal discharge to be at risk for infection.

Although there have been reports of inhaled spores recently, skin contact with anthrax is the most common way people contract the disease. The spores are exposed to skin abrasions, lacerations, etc. and a superficial wound develops.

Anything that would expose the body tissues containing the bacteria to oxygen should be avoided in an attempt to reduce the number of spores in the environment. Any animal that dies from anthrax should be cremated to avoid development and spread of additional spores.

Animals diagnosed with anthrax should be handled with extreme caution. Body fluids should be avoided and necropsy should not be performed.

What to Watch For

Signs of Anthrax in cats may include: 

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Facial swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Bloody discharge from mouth, nose and rectum
  • Diagnosis of Anthrax in Cats

    Diagnosis can be difficult. An accurate and thorough history is very important. Since anthrax is uncommon in cats, exposure to carcasses known to be infected with anthrax is a crucial part of the medical history and diagnosis. Cats rarely ingest or inhale enough spores from the soil to cause illness.

    If there is an index of suspicion for anthrax, examination of the blood or any blood-tinged discharge can reveal the bacteria. The fluid is prepared and appropriately stained. Rod shaped bacteria will be seen when the fluid is microscopically examined.

    Additional tests, such as fluorescent antibody exam of smears prepared from blood or body fluid, can be used to confirm the diagnosis. Lymph node biopsy can also reveal the signs of anthrax bacterial invasion.

    Treatment of Anthrax in Cats

    Early treatment is crucial. Successful treatment involves hospitalization and supportive care. Intravenous fluids and high doses of penicillin, ampicillin or enrofloxacin are administered.

    Despite aggressive treatment, some animals do not survive. After death, extreme care must be taken. Necropsies are not recommended and neither is burial.

    Home Care and Prevention

    There is no home care for anthrax. It is highly contagious and extreme caution is necessary when treating infected animals. Since anthrax is most often associated with ingestion of infected carcasses, do not allow your pet to roam. Keep your cat indoors.

    Canine Parvovirus: What You Need To Know

    Canine parvovirus is a devastating disease. Here is a common situation. Take for example Barbara Sorg. She thought she did everything right. So how did she end up with a $15,000 veterinary bill?

    Despite taking every precaution, her litter of eight-week-old English Shepherd puppies was infected with the canine parvovirus (CPV). Each puppy spent varying amounts of time in the intensive care unit, with four of them surviving and one being humanely euthanized.

    “I have no idea where they picked up the parvo,” Sorg says. “I assume it came in on one of the shoes of the many visitors, or the shoes of prospective puppy buyers, as the puppies were only on my property. It could have come in on one of my family members’ shoes, or it could have been brought to my yard by an infected raccoon. We will never know.”

    Experts say CPV particles are literally everywhere in every environment – except those environments that are regularly disinfected (highly resistant to most cleaning products, contaminated areas, such as floors, walkways, driveways, crates, etc., can be disinfected with one part bleach to 30 parts water). Even then, sterile environments can be quickly re-infected, as the virus is shed in large amounts in the stools of infected dogs for several weeks following infection and can be carried on a dog’s feet and hair, as well as carried on shoes, clothing, tires, pet crates, and other animals.

    To make matters worse, CPV is extremely hardy and viral particles are capable of surviving for months in the environment – even through winter.

    A Bit of History on Parvo Virus

    Nearly every mammal species, humans included, has its own parvovirus, with each virus being specific for which animal it can infect. For instance, the pig parvovirus will not infect people, the canine virus will not infect cats, the human virus will not infect dogs, etc.

    The original canine parvovirus, discovered in 1967 and called CPV-1, did not represent much threat – except to newborn puppies. Experts believe it mutated from the already well-known feline panleukopenia virus (FPV).

    Around 1978, a new variant, CPV-2 emerged and no dogs had immunity against the virus, which resulted in a CPV epidemic. By 1979, a second virus – CPV-2a – emerged, which seemed even more aggressive. In 2000, yet another virulent strain known as CPV-2c was discovered in Italy, with the first case in the United States being confirmed in 2006.

     

    How Parvo Works

    Infection occurs when a puppy or adult dog ingests the virus. To successfully infect a dog, CPV needs the help of rapidly dividing cells, with the first cells to be attacked being the lymph nodes of the throat.

    After incubating there for a few days, the virus then spills into the bloodstream – traveling to the bone marrow and intestinal cells. Within the bone marrow, CPV destroys white blood cells – making it easier for viral particles to invade and wreak havoc on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. A dog’s intestines have rapidly dividing cells, and it’s here where CPV does the most damage – leaving a puppy’s intestines unable to absorb nutrients.

    Eventually, bacteria, which is normally confined to the GI tract, spills out of the intestines and into the bloodstream – causing significant blood loss through diarrhea and widespread infection throughout the puppy’s body.

    Symptoms of Parvo Virus in Dogs

    Severe diarrhea (oftentimes odorous or bloody) and nausea (which further weaken a puppy’s system) are the primary symptoms. Lethargy, depression, loss or lack of appetite, vomiting, followed by a sudden onset of high fever may also occur. The typical incubation period is 3 to 7 days between initial infection and onset of first symptoms.

     

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    Diagnosis of Canine Parvovirus

    This highly contagious gastrointestinal disease normally affects puppies, but unvaccinated dogs of all ages are susceptible. For unknown reasons, some breeds are at a higher risk of infection including Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and German Shepherd Dogs.

    Diagnosis is often suspected based on the history and physical examination. The diagnosis of canine parvovirus is confirmed with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test, with results being available in about 15 minutes.

    Treatment of Canine Parvovirus

    Treatment consists of intensive veterinary management including intravenous fluids to control dehydration, and antibiotics for infection, which requires a costly hospital stay. Oftentimes, the cost is prohibitive for many owners, with euthanasia being the alternative for severely affected puppies.
    CPV is not always fatal, but those dogs who die usually do so as a result of dehydration and/or secondary bacterial infection.

    New Protocol for Treatment of Canine Parvovirus

    The typical cost for inpatient care ranges between $1,500 to $3,500, with an average hospital stay being 5 to 7 days. However, researchers at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital have developed an alternative treatment Рintensive at-home care at a fraction of the cost.

    Canine Influenza Virus (Dog Flu)

    The canine flu virus, also referred to as Canine Influenza Virus, Greyhound Disease, and Race Flu, is considered highly contagious respiratory infection of dogs.

    It was originally identified in 2005 and last years news of it flooded the internet and news. There are possible cases being documented by veterinarians in almost every state but there is not a good communication system between states to determine the full extent of the virus. The virus can cause coughing, high fevers, nasal discharge and a fatal pneumonia.. In the spring of 2015, and outbreak affecting over 1,000 dogs occured in the Chicago area and Midwest. This outbreak was caused by a different strain of the canine influenza virus (CIV).

    It has been suggested that 80% of dogs exposed to the virus will develop an infection. Most dogs will only have mild coughing however puppies and older dogs are at greatest risk for fatalities associated with the virus. The number of dogs at risk from dying from this virus may be anywhere from 1 to 10%.

    According to Dr. Dick Slemons, an authority on influenza viruses at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, the disease is associated most often with dogs housed in a high-density population or boarding kennel. The infectious agent is transmitted by direct contact with respiratory secretions through the air or by contact with contaminated surfaces. It can be spread by people moving between infected and uninfected dogs with contaminated objects.

    The virus has been primarily documented in shelters, boarding facilities, pet stores and dog tracks.

    The incubation period (time from exposure to symptoms) is estimated to be 2 -5 days.

    The canine influenza virus is an influenza H3N8 influenza virus that was originally a horse virus. It is not a human virus nor is it contagious to humans. The H3N8 equine virus has been known to exist in horses for 40 years. It is believed by scientists for the virus to have adapted from horses to cause illness in dogs.

    The virus was discovered by Dr. Cynda Crawford, an immunologist at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, who began investigating the first outbreak at a racetrack in Jacksonville, FL in January 2004. The virus made national media attention after Dr. Crawford and colleagues published an article in the September 26, 2005 edition of Science Magazine entitled “Transmission of Equine Influenza Virus to Dogs”.

    It is often mistaken for infections caused by kennel cough (Bordetlla bronchiseptica/parainfluenza virus complex. The virus may appear similar to kennel cough, which is a highly contagious inflammation of the trachea (windpipe) and bronchial tree caused by a contagious virus (adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, canine distemper virus) or bacterium (Bordetella bronchiseptica). However, with most cases of kennel cough, a mild to moderate cough without other symptoms is usually self-limiting; however, occasional cases become lingering and cause chronic bronchitis. With this new virus, the cough is often associated with high temperatures, coughs and nasal discharge.

     

    Previous to the 2015 outbreak, there was no evidence that the dog virus can spread to humans, cats or other animal types.  It was believed that the virus is species specific and only spread dog to dog. However, with the 2015 outbreak, researches at Cornell University found that the new strain caused infection and respiratory illness in cats.

    What to Watch For

    Watch for a variety of symptoms that can vary in severity.

  • Signs of upper respiratory problems such as conjunctivitis (irritated eyes), rhinitis (runny nose) or sneezing may be observed.
  • Cough. The classic symptoms are coughing that worsen with activity or excitement and can persist for minutes. If secondary bacterial pneumonia develops, the dog often shows signs of illness such as loss of appetite, depression, or fever.
  • Fever (high as 106 degrees F)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Runny nose
  • No symptoms. Some dogs have asymptomatic infections.

    Any of these signs should prompt a visit to see your veterinarian in order to be certain pneumonia has not set in. Symptoms can last for up to four weeks.

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    Diagnosis

    A complete medical history may help to reveal recent exposure to a kennel or other dogs. However, it will be difficult in some situations to differentiate this virus from the common “Kennel Cough” virus mentioned above. Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize it and exclude other diseases. These tests may include:

  • A chest X-ray may be recommended to determine if pneumonia is present.
  • Routine laboratory blood tests-a complete blood count (CBC) or blood chemistry panel is not necessary unless your pet is showing signs of generalized illness, fever or loss of appetite.
  • A fecal flotation should be done to exclude intestinal parasites.
  • Blood titers – Testing for the virus is being done through veterinary diagnostic centers. The test can be performed by using testing respiratory secretions at the time of disease onset or by blood samples.

    According to Dr. Crawford, blood testing recommendations include that a sample be submitted during the first week of illness (acute sample) followed by another sample 2 – 3 weeks later (convalescent sample). Diagnosis is based on a four-fold increase in antibody titers from acute to convalescent phase. They need 1/2 ml of serum for this test. For more information about sample submission, talk to your veterinarian (also, they can go to http://www.diaglab.vet.cornell.edu/news.asp). With the sample, the lab is also requesting additional information to help them characterize the disease and locations. Antibodies are generally not detectable during the first week of clinical signs but are detectable after the first week and for up to 2 years after infection. If an acute sample is not available, exposure can be confirmed by the presence of antibodies in a convalescent sample.

  • Infectious Tracheobronchitis (Kennel Cough) in Dogs

    Overview of Kennel Cough in Dogs

    You might think your dog has something stuck in his throat. The cough associated with acute infectious tracheobronchitis, (ITB) or kennel cough, is a high-pitched, honk-like cough, sometimes followed by retching.

    Kennel cough is a highly contagious inflammation of the trachea (windpipe) and bronchial tree caused by a contagious virus (adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, canine distemper virus) or bacterium (Bordetella bronchiseptica). The disease is associated most often with dogs housed in a high-density population or boarding kennel. The infectious agents can be transmitted through the air or by contact with contaminated surfaces. Puppies and younger dogs are at greatest risk, but even old dogs can acquire kennel cough.

    The incubation period from the time the dog first contracts the infection to the time that symptoms develop is typically between 3 to 10 days, and the symptoms can last for days to weeks. A mild to moderate cough without other symptoms is usually self-limiting; however, occasional cases become lingering and cause chronic bronchitis.

    What to Watch For

    Kennel cough causes a variety of symptoms that can vary in severity.

  • Signs of upper respiratory problems such as conjunctivitis (irritated eyes), rhinitis (runny nose) or sneezing may be observed.
  • Cough. The classic symptoms are bouts of a loud, honking cough that worsen with activity or excitement and can persist for minutes. The dog will often act as if something is stuck in the throat and retch or vomit up fluid after coughing. If secondary bacterial pneumonia develops, the dog often shows signs of illness such as loss of appetite, depression, or fever.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Difficult breathing

    Any of these signs should prompt a visit to see your veterinarian in order to be certain pneumonia has not set in.

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    Diagnosis of Infectious Tracheobronchitis in Dogs

    Complete medical history will usually reveal recent exposure to a kennel or other dogs. Windpipe sensitivity is present in most cases. Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize kennel cough and exclude other diseases. These tests may include:

  • A chest X-ray may be recommended to determine if pneumonia is present.
  • Routine laboratory blood tests-a complete blood count (CBC) or blood chemistry panel is not necessary unless your pet is showing signs of generalized illness, fever or loss of appetite.
  • A fecal flotation should be done to exclude intestinal parasites.
  • If signs of eye involvement are observed, the cornea of the eye should be examined carefully.
  • Treatment of Infectious Tracheobronchitis in Dogs

    Therapy is controversial because the disease is usually self-limiting (like a human cold) and, if a viral infection is suspected, antibiotics can’t kill the virus. This is especially true in mild, uncomplicated cases where treatment is supportive-not unlike that given to a person with a bad cold. Treatments for kennel cough may include one or more of the following:

  • Cough suppressants are appropriate for some pets with kennel cough. Your veterinarian can discuss the pros and cons of this treatment. Injections or pills (butorphanol) are often used, but occasionally, a stronger medicine is needed (codeine-related) to break the cough cycle. Don’t use over-the-counter human medicine without first speaking to your veterinarian.
  • Antibiotics are used in some patients, especially if Bordetella infection or secondary bacterial infection is likely.
  • If the symptoms do not improve or should they become chronic, a careful re-evaluation including blood tests and a chest X-ray is indicated.
  • Home Care

  • Deworming of puppies is appropriate if they have not recently received such treatments.

    To prevent the spread of kennel cough, keep your dog away from other dogs for at least one week. In addition, do the following:

  • Limit exercise and enforce periods of rest; don’t exercise or play with your dog. Activity often initiates periods of loud, uncomfortable coughing.
  • Encourage adequate fluid intake to maintain hydration. Provide soft food if dry food irritates the throat.
  • If your dog normally wears a restraint collar, remove it or replace it with a harness to decrease airway irritation.
  • Avoid environmental stresses including house dust, vapors, chemical fumes and tobacco smoke.
  • To mobilize secretions and reduce coughing, provide humidified air (e.g. a vaporizer in the dog’s room or in a steamy bathroom for one or two hours).
  • Preventative Care

    Vaccinations provide very good protection against ITB in most dogs. However, like all vaccinations, protection is not 100 percent and some dogs will contract ITB despite vaccination.

    In-depth Information Kennel Cough in Dogs

    Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis (ITB), also known as the kennel cough complex, refers to a group of acute contagious infectious respiratory diseases in dogs, which can cause inflammation of the larynx, trachea, bronchi and lung. The condition is especially common in unvaccinated, young dogs.

  • Acute tracheobronchitis indicates an inflammatory reaction in the airways. This inflammation usually causes variable increases in tracheobronchial secretions (mucus and “sputum”) and a cough.
  • If respiratory clearance mechanisms or immunity are insufficient, pneumonia may develop from the primary infection or from secondary bacterial invaders. Some viruses and bacteria have a predilection for the nasal cavity and membranes of the eye (the conjunctiva), leading to signs of an upper respiratory infection similar to a human cold.
  • Common infectious agents responsible for tracheobronchitis in the dog include: Bordetella bronchiseptica (a bacterium); canine parainfluenza virus; canine adenoviruse-2; canine reovirus (a minor cause); and canine herpesvirus (infrequent to rare cause). Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most common bacterial and canine parainfluenza virus is the most common viral isolate noted in dogs with canine infectious tracheobronchitis (ITB).
  • Canine distemper virus can mimic these signs and lead to widespread organ disease.

    In addition to infectious (contagious) causes of tracheobronchitis, other conditions of the upper and lower airways may cause signs similar to those of infectious tracheobronchial infection. Your veterinarian may need to perform tests to rule out some of these other conditions. This is particularly true if initial treatment of the condition does not lead to an appropriate response. The list of potential causes of these symptoms is very long. They include:

  • Pharyngitis (tonsillitis)
  • Oral infections with seeding of the tracheobronchial tree
  • Laryngeal swelling
  • Intestinal parasites (worms)undergoing lung migration
  • Fungal infections of the lung
  • Pneumonia
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Respiratory tract parasites
  • Tracheal collapse
  • Allergic bronchitis or chronic bronchitis
  • Foreign body inhalation (something really is stuck in the throat)
  • Heart disease
  • Lung or windpipe tumor or cancer
  • Trauma to the trachea (windpipe)
  • Pseudorabies (Aujeszky’s Disease) in Dogs

    Overview of Canine Pseudorabies 

    Pseudorabies is a highly fatal viral disease caused by a herpes virus. Also referred to as Aujeszky’s disease, this disease is usually associated with contact with swine (pigs) but can also be acquired by ingesting infected rats or eating contaminated, uncooked pork. For this reason, pseudorabies is more commonly seen in dogs that live on farms.

    What to Watch For

    Signs of pseudorabies in dogs: 

  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Excessive salivation
  • Difficult or rapid breathing
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Ataxia (difficulty walking due to poor coordination)
  • Convulsions
  • Reluctance to move
  • Intense pruritis (itching)
  • Self mutilation
  • Coma
  • Sudden death

    This disease progresses rapidly, and death usually occurs within 48 hours.

  • Diagnosis of Pseudorabies in Dogs

    Compatible clinical signs and recent exposure to pigs is highly suggestive of pseudorabies infection. Baseline tests to include a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis are recommended in all patients, and are often within normal limits. Additional tests may include:

  • Serologic testing. Blood tests that measure antibodies or the bodies response to an organism are the most frequent tests used to diagnose pseudorabies – if the animal recovers.
  • Antibody testing on brain tissue to test the body’s microscopic response to an organism
  • Isolation of the viral organism
  • Treatment of Pseudorabies in Dogs

    There is no known effective treatment. Supportive care and prevention of self-injury is indicated. Death is the expected outcome.

    Home Care and Prevention

    There is mild potential for human infection. Take precautions when treating or handling infected dogs. Dog-to-dog transmission is unusual.

    Preventing pseudorabies is aimed at avoidance of contaminated swine. Also, avoiding ingestion of raw or contaminated pork and infected rats is highly recommended.

    Ehrlichiosis in Dogs

    Overview of Canine Ehrlichiosis

    Ehrlichiosis is a tick-born disease of dogs characterized by fever, lethargy, lameness and/or bleeding tendencies. It is caused by one of several rickettsial organisms that belong to the genus, Ehrlichia. Ehrlichia canis (E. canis) is the primary causative agent in dogs.

    Rickettsia are small microscopic organisms that are different from both bacteria and viruses. They enter various cells of the body and behave as tiny parasites, eventually killing the cell. Ehrlichiosis occurs worldwide, and it achieved prominence during the Vietnam War, when a large proportion of military dogs contracted the disease.

    The disease is spread predominantly by the brown dog tick in the United States. Ticks are seen on the affected dog less than half the time, however. Infrequently, ehrlichiosis can be caused by the transfusion of infected blood. It occurs much more commonly in the dog than in the cat. It can be seen in any age dog, although it is seen most commonly in middle-aged animals. Purebred dogs, especially German shepherd dogs, appear to be more susceptible than crossbred dogs.

    The impact on the affected individual can vary from very mild clinical signs to severe, life threatening disease. Several different stages of the disease are possible. Subclinical, asymptomatic infection may occur and may persist for months or years. Acute clinical signs may develop in some dogs and resolve spontaneously or with treatment. Acute infections may also develop into chronic infections that produce more severe clinical signs.

    What to Watch For

    Symptoms of ehrlichiosis in dogs may include: 

  • Lethargy, depression
  • Anorexia (decreased appetite), weight loss
  • Fever
  • Spontaneous bleeding from any part of the body (urine, stool, nose)
  • Bruising or small hemorrhages in the skin, gums, lips or around the eyes
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Neurologic signs (poor balance, difficulty walking, tremors, seizures)
  • Squinting and inflammation of the eye, decreased vision
  • Swollen glands (enlarged lymph nodes)
  • Swollen and inflamed joints
  • Diagnosis of Ehrlichia Infection in Dogs

  • A complete blood count (CBC), platelet count, biochemical profile, and urinalysis are indicated for all suspect cases. Depending on the stage of the disease, abnormal findings may include anemia, low platelet count (Platelets are small particles in the blood responsible for initiating a blood clot.), and low counts for some or all of the white blood cells. Elevations in kidney and/or liver values, elevated or decreased protein levels in the blood, and protein in the urine may also be found.
  • Although rarely seen, the presence of organisms within the white blood cells is diagnostic for ehrlichiosis.
  • Screening chest and abdominal radiographs (X-rays) may be performed. Although within normal limits in many cases, they may reveal an enlarged liver or spleen. They also help to rule out other diseases that produce similar clinical signs.
  • A full blood clotting panel may be performed. Other clotting tests beside the platelet count may be abnormal.
  • A bone marrow aspirate may be recommended. Examination of the bone marrow helps to determine why certain blood cells are decreased in the blood count and provides information on whether the bone marrow is healthy enough to recover.
  • Serologic testing detects various antibodies produced by the body against Ehrlichia. Antibodies are often detected within seven days of exposure and infection with the organism, and may persist for months. It is sometimes difficult to determine whether the antibody titers present in the dog are due to chronic exposure to the disease because the dog lives in areas where infected ticks are prevalent, or whether the titers indicate there is active infection present in the dog.
  • Ehrlichia polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a test that is capable of detecting the presence of extremely small amounts of the parasite.
  • Treatment of Ehrlichia Infection in Dogs

    Depending on the severity of clinical signs, treatment options may include outpatient care or may necessitate hospitalization. Antibiotic therapy is the mainstay of treatment for ehrlichiosis. In severely ill patients, intravenous fluid therapy, blood transfusions, and other forms of intensive support may be indicated.

    The most common antibiotics used to treat ehrlichiosis belong to the tetracycline family of drugs. They include doxycycline, tetracycline, oxytetracycline, and minocycline. These antibiotics have the greatest efficacy against Ehrlichia, and the fewest side effects.

    Home Care and Prevention

    At home, be sure to administer all medication exactly as prescribed and return for follow-up testing as directed by your veterinarian. Most antibiotics are given for at least two to three weeks for this disease. Prognosis with acute disease is excellent if caught early. Dogs in the acute phase of the disease often show improvement within 72 hours of starting the antibiotics. The prognosis with chronic cases varies, and dogs with chronic disease may require prolonged treatment.

    Mycoplasma in Dogs

    Overview of Canine Mycoplasma

    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

    Signs of mycoplasma in dogs may include: 

  • 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 of Mycoplasma in Dogs

  • 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 of Mycoplasma in Dogs

  • 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.

    In-depth Information on Mycoplasma in Dogs

    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
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    In-depth Information on Diagnosis 

    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.
  • Babesiosis in Dogs

    Overview of Canine Babesiosis

    Canine babesiosis is a tick-borne disease caused by a protozoan blood parasite. The cause of the disease is an organism of the genus Babesia. There are two species of Babesia that can cause disease in the United States: Babesia canis and Babesia gibsoni.

    The organism is spread to dogs through the bite of a tick and can infect dogs of all ages, although most infected dogs are less than three years old. In the United States, there is a peak incidence occurring between March and October. Greyhounds have a higher incidence of the disease than other breeds.

    Babesiosis mainly affects red blood cells, causing anemia, although many organ systems can be involved, and many complications can arise; disease can be mild, or can be fatal.

    What to Watch For

    Symptoms of babesiosis in dogs may include:

  • Pale gums
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Labored breathing
  • Failure to produce urine
  • Excessive thirst
  • Hemoglobinuria (red colored urine)
  • Collapse
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Jaundice that appears as a yellow coloration of the gums and whites of the eyes
  • Fever
  • Severe respiratory distress
  • Fast breathing
  • Coughing
  • Blood tinged frothy nasal discharge
  • Diagnosis of Babesiosis in Dogs

  • Complete blood count, chemistry panel and urinalysis
  • Evaluation of a blood smear
  • Serology
  • Treatment of Babesiosis in Dogs

  • Diminazene aceturate
  • Imidocarb
  • Trypan blue
  • Blood transfusions
  • Supportive care
  • Home Care and Prevention

    Administer medication as prescribed. Since the disease is spread by ticks, preventing tick exposure is paramount.

    In-depth Information on Babesia Infection in Dogs

    Canine babesiosis is a tick-borne disease caused by the protozoan blood parasite Babesia. Although primarily a red blood cell parasite, Babesia can affect multiple organs. Hemolytic anemia, whereby the red blood cells are destroyed, is the hallmark of Babesia infection, many variations and complications can occur.

    The organism that causes babesiosis is either Babesia canis or Babesia gibsoni. There are three subspecies of Babesia canis. One subspecies is found in Europe, another in northern Africa and North America, and the third in southern Africa. Babesia canis is pear-shaped and is usually infects red blood cells in pairs. Babesia gibsoni is round or oval, and is smaller than Babesia canis. It is found in Asia, North America, and eastern Africa.

    Babesiosis is transmitted by ticks. A tick will feed on a dog that is sick or incubating the disease, and then feed on a susceptible dog. The incubation period following the tick bite is 10 to 21 days. Dogs of all ages can be infected, although it tends to be seen in dogs younger than three years of age. Other canids, such as wild dogs, jackals, and wolves are also susceptible. A seasonal variation in the number of cases diagnosed has been described in North America, with most cases occurring between March and October. In the southeastern United States, greyhounds have a higher prevalence than that of the general pet population.

    The Babesia organism infects red blood cells. This causes hemolysis, which is destruction of the red blood cell. Fever and enlargement of the spleen may occur. Although the parasite infected red blood cells, it triggers an excessive inflammatory response that may cause widespread inflammation and multi-organ damage. The kidneys may be affected, and acute kidney failure may occur. The parasitized red blood cells may cause sludging in the small vessels in the brain, resulting in neurologic signs such as seizures, semi-coma, or coma. The excessive, unchecked inflammatory response that occurs throughout the body may affect the lungs, causing a serious condition called acute respiratory distress syndrome in which dogs show severe life-threatening respiratory compromise.

    Canine babesiosis is often classified as uncomplicated or complicated. Uncomplicated babesiosis tends to have signs relating to anemia only, such as fever, anorexia, depression, pale gums, enlarged spleen, and bounding pulses. Uncomplicated babesiosis is further subdivided into mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the severity of the anemia. Mild uncomplicated cases may progress to severe uncomplicated disease, whereby the anemia becomes life threatening. Complicated babesiosis involves clinical manifestations that are unrelated to anemia.

    Common Complications of Babesiosis in Dogs

  • Acute kidney failure
  • Cerebral babesiosis (neurologic signs are the most evident)
  • Coagulopathy (blood clotting disorders)
  • Jaundice (yellow discoloration of the mucous membranes)
  • Liver damage
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Shock

    Acute kidney failure is an uncommon complication. Dogs with babesiosis and acute kidney failure will have abnormally elevated kidney values on their serum chemistry panels, and will have many abnormalities on their urinalysis. Most dogs will produce less urine than normal, and some will have total kidney shutdown and will not produce any urine at all.

  • Brucellosis in Dogs

    Overview of Canine Brucellosis 

    Brucellosis is a contagious disease of dogs caused by Brucella canis, a small bacterial organism. Brucellosis affects primarily the reproductive system. The disease causes late abortions and infertility in bitches, and infertility, testicular and scrotal inflammation in males. Brucellosis may also cause puppies to be stillborn or very weak at birth. Certain nonreproductive signs may also develop.

    Brucellosis occurs mainly in dogs and has not been reported in cats. There is no evidence that some dog breeds are more susceptible that others, but there is a high prevalence in beagles. Brucellosis is more common in sexually mature dogs, but can affect dogs of any age. Both males and females are affected, but it is more common in females. Dogs from breeding kennels, pack hounds and stray dogs are most commonly affected, because of their increased risk of exposure.

    Brucellosis is transmitted by contact with infected fluids (vaginal, preputial), especially during breeding or birth. Brucellosis may be transmitted from dogs to people.

    What to Watch For

    Overview of brucellosis in dogs may include: 

  • Lethargy or sluggishness
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Back pain and difficulty walking with infections around the spine
  • Weak or dying puppies
  • Abortion
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Swollen testicles
  • Dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) on the scrotum
  • Weakness
  • Cloudy eyes from inflammation inside the eye
  • Some infected dogs show no signs of illness
  • Diagnosis of Brucellosis in Dogs

    Brucellosis can be difficult to diagnosis. Confirmation of the disease may require several tests be performed, including the following:

  • A complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile and urinalysis are recommended in all animals suspected of having brucellosis, but they may be normal or show only vague changes.
  • Serologic blood tests that measure antibodies to the bacteria are the most frequent tests used to diagnose brucellosis. There are screening tests for Brucellosis that may be performed in your veterinarian’s office or local laboratory. If the screening tests are positive, then further specialized testing is required to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Radiographs (x-rays) of the spine may show changes in the vertebrae (spine) consistent with brucellosis.
  • The organism may occasionally be cultured and isolated from blood cultures, vaginal fluid cultures, semen cultures or urine cultures. Negative cultures do not rule out the disease, however.
  • Examination for semen quality may be helpful. Male dogs with brucellosis often have abnormal semen.
  • Lymph node biopsy may confirm diagnosis, but it often requires special staining techniques to identify the organism.
  • Treatment of Brucellosis in Dogs

    Because brucellosis can be transmitted from dogs to people, there is concern about whether all infected dogs should be treated. In some cases it may be preferable to euthanize the animal. Treatment is not recommended for breeding animals, as it is unlikely that they will ever be fully cured and will continue to pass on the disease or will remain sterile.

    When treatment is attempted, the goal of treatment is to eradicate B. canis from the patient, but this can be difficult to accomplish. Any intact dogs are spayed or castrated. Medical treatment is often begun as an outpatient, although some of the antibiotics used for the disease must be given as injections.

  • A combination of two antibiotics are often administered. Choices include tetracycline, minocycline and doxycycline given with one of the aminoglycoside antibiotics, such as gentamicin.
  • The antibiotics are usually administered for about four weeks and may need to be repeated at various time intervals for several months.
  • Home Care and Prevention

    Administer all medication as directed by your veterinarian and return for follow up examinations as directed. Sequential serologic tests are recommended at three to six month intervals to monitor the outcome of treatment. If any change is noted in your dog’s condition, notify your veterinarian.

    Overall prognosis is guarded, as animals, especially males, may become chronic carriers of the disease. The pet owner should not breed, sell, or give away infected dogs.

    All dogs should be tested for brucellosis prior to their use as breeding dogs. Test all brood bitches and breeding males that are kept in kennels at frequent intervals. Dogs confirmed to be positive for the disease should not be used in breeding. Quarantine and test all new dogs before allowing them to enter a breeding kennel.

    Leptospirosis in Dogs

    Overview of Leptospirosis in Dogs

    Leptospirosis, commonly referred to as “lepto”, is a zoonotic disease that can pass from animals to humans. It is a bacterial disease that damages the liver and kidneys of dogs, sometimes resulting in renal failure and death. It is caused by a spirochete (spiral shaped bacterium) called a leptospire.

    Leptospires live in fluids from infected animals, including urine, saliva, blood and milk. The disease is transmitted by direct contact with the fluids or with an infected animal. It is also transmitted by indirect contact such as vegetation, food and water, soil and bedding materials. Leptospires enter the body through mucous membranes or through breaks in the skin. The disease may be carried for years in animals without any apparent symptoms of the disease.

    Any age, breed or sex of dog is susceptible to leptospirosis, although in general, young animals are more severely affected than adults. Large breed outdoor adult dogs are most commonly affected.

    Leptospirosis can cause irreversible kidney damage, liver damage, uveitis (inflammation of the inner part of the eye), and damage to other organs.

    What To Watch For

    The first signs you might notice in your pet are flu-like symptoms. This may include several days of anorexia, vomiting, lethargy, depression and sometimes diarrhea or bloody urine. Other signs may include:

  • Chills and fever
  • Generalized muscle tenderness
  • Dehydration
  • Blood in the vomit or stool, bloody nose or widespread bruising
  • Jaundice
  • Labored breathing or coughing
  • Sudden lack of production of urine
  • Diagnosis of Leptospirosis in Dogs

    Your veterinarian will want to do a complete review of history and physical exam findings to develop a list of possible causes for your dog’s illness. In order to make a definitive diagnosis of leptospirosis, however, various diagnostic tests may be recommended.

  • Leptospirosis test. A microscopic agglutination test (MAT) is the most frequently used serologic test for leptospirosis. It evaluates the presence of serum antibodies to leptospiral antigens.
  • General blood and urine tests
  • Kidney biopsy

    Treatment of Leptospirosis in Dogs

    If the disease is caught in time, it can usually be treated successfully with penicillin and tetracycline drugs. However, those with renal failure may or may not recover, or may recover only partial renal function.

  • Animals with acute renal failure should be treated with appropriate fluid therapy.
  • Antibiotic therapy
  • Supportive care including hospitalization with intravenous fluids or blood transfusion.
  • Preventive Care

  • Prevention is available in the form of vaccinations, although they provide protection against serovars (subtypes) canicola and icterohaemorrhagiae. Despite this, immunization is recommended. New vaccines may provide a broader spectrum of protection.
  • Rodents are a potential source of infection for dogs, and rodent control, especially in kennels, is an important prevention method.
  • Minimize contact with wild animals because these animals are reservoirs of infection.
  • Isolate infected animals and maintain a clean environment.
  • In-depth Information on Leptospirosis in Dogs

    Leptospirosis is still an important infectious disease of dogs, despite the fact that vaccines have been around for more than 30 years. It has a worldwide distribution and is caused by several distinct serovars (subtypes) of the organism Leptospira interrogans. The organism is a spiral shaped bacterium with hook shaped ends that makes a characteristic writhing and flexing movement while moving. There are many distinct subtypes of the leptospirosis organism, although five in particular are responsible for most cases of disease in dogs. Dogs contract leptospirosis either by direct contact with infected urine, bite wounds, eating infected tissue or during birth.

    Wild animals like skunks, raccoons and opossums are a major source of infection, although pigs, rats and other animals may harbor the organism and serve as reservoirs of infection. Direct spread is enhanced by crowding of animals, such as in kennel situations. Indirect transmission can occur if susceptible animals are exposed to contaminated food, soil, water or bedding. Stagnant or slow-moving warm water provides an excellent habitat for the organism. This explains the increase in cases during periods of flooding.

    Once the organism penetrates the body, it enters the bloodstream and multiplies rapidly and causes the blood vessels to become inflamed. The organism penetrates through the inflamed vessels and invades other organs like the kidneys, liver, spleen, eyes and reproductive tract. The body makes an immune response and eliminates the organism from most organs. Unfortunately, organisms tend to persist in the kidneys and can be released into the urine for several weeks or months. When the organism invades the kidney, sudden impairment of kidney function may result. Depending on how virulent, or infectious, the particular serovar of the organism is, and how strong an immune response the dog mounts, the damage can be mild or severe. Some serovars can cause sudden hemorrhage, liver damage, and most commonly, kidney damage.