Hemotrophic Mycoplasmosis (Haemobartonellosis) in Cats
The mycoplasma bacteria are the most common cause of urinary tract infections and pneumonia. They are a class of bacterial parasite belonging to the order of Mollicutes. These parasites lack true cell walls and are able to survive without oxygen, making them resistant to antibiotics and therefore a greater challenge to detect and treat.
Hemotrophic mycoplasmosis is an infection of the red blood cells by mycoplasma. It can be either M. haemofelis, the most severe form that affects cats, or M. haemominutum, the less severe form. This disease may also be referred to as haemobartonellosis, or feline infectious anemia, though hemotrophic mycoplasmos is the preferred medical term. While some cats will show no symptoms of infection, others may show minor symptoms of anemia, and still others may lose all of their energy and die.
Symptoms and Types
- 50 percent of those infected will have sudden onset of fever
- Lack of appetite
- Whitish to pale purple gums
- Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
- Icterus (jaundice)
The mycoplasma bacteria is transmitted mainly by ticks and fleas that have fed off of other infected animals. It is also spread to kittens through an infected queen (mother); from fighting between animals (body fluid exchange); and rarely, from blood transfusion - where infected blood from one animal is transfused to an uninfected animal.
Mycoplasma haemofelis (previously classified as the large form of Haemobartonella felis) and M. haemominutum (previously classified as the small form of H. felis) are the two types of mollicutes that cause this condition.
Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your cat, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition. You will need to give a thorough history of your cat's health and recent activities. A complete blood chemical profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis, and a blood smear. The blood smear will be stained to identify the mycoplasmas in the blood. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, or a Coombs’ test, may also be used by your veterinarian to positively identify the presence of mycoplasmas.