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Parasitic Blood Infection (Haemobartonellosis) in Dogs

Hemotrophic Mycoplasmosis (Haemobartonellosis) in Dogs

The mycoplasma is a class of bacterial parasites belonging to the order of Mollicutes. They are able to survive without oxygen, and lack true cell walls, making them resistant to antibiotics and therefore a greater challenge to detect and treat. They are the most common cause of urinary tract infections and pneumonia.

Hemotrophic mycoplasmosis is the result of infection of the red blood cells by the mycoplasma parasite M. haemocanis. Dogs usually will not show signs of illness or suffer from severe anemia (lack of red blood cells) with this kind of infection unless they have had their spleens removed (splenectomy). Since the purpose of the spleen is to filter and remove damaged red blood cells, the lack of this organ allows the mycoplasma to take a stronger hold in the system, and the body suffers systemically from the overload of damaged blood cells.

Symptoms and Types

  • Mild signs, unless the spleen has been surgically removed
  • Lack of appetite
  • Listlessness
  • Whitish to pale purple gums
  • Infertility (both genders)

Causes

The mycoplasma bacteria is transmitted mainly by ticks and fleas that have fed off of other infected animals. It is also spread through fighting between animals (body fluid exchange); and rarely, from blood transfusion - where infected blood from one animal is transfused to an uninfected animal. Transmission of the mycoplasma from a mother to her young (typically through milk) is not yet proven to take place with dogs.

M. haemocanis (previously classified as H. canis) is the main type of mollicute that causes this condition.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, 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 dog'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.

 
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