Actinomycosis in Cats
This infectious disease is caused by a gram positive, pleomorphic (can change shape somewhat between a rod and coccus), rod-shaped bacteria of the genus Actinomyces, most commonly the A. viscosus species. Able to survive with little (microaerophilic) or no oxygen (anaerobic), Actinomyces is rarely found as the single bacterial agent in a lesion. It more often a component of a polymicrobial infection with several bacteria present. In fact, there may even be synergism between Actinomyces and other organisms.
Symptoms and Types
- Pain and fever
- Infections on the face or neck area; usually localized but may be spread out
- Skin swellings or abscesses with draining tracts; sometimes yellow granules
- Inflammation of the cellular tissue behind the peritoneum, the smooth membrane which lines the abdomen (retroperitonitis)
- Inflammation of the bone or vertebrae (osteomyelitis), especially long bones such as those found in the limbs; this is secondary to the skin infection
- When associated with spinal cord compression, motor and sensory deficits (i.e., trouble walking, touching, etc.)
Actinomycosis is thought to occur as an opportunistic infection; i.e., Actinomyces spp. is a normal inhabitant of the cat's mouths, but cuts, scrapes, or bite wounds in the mucosa or skin can cause an imbalance in the bacterial microenvironment. Other risk factors include periodontal disease and immunosuppressive disorders.
You will need to give a thorough history of your cat’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, to the veterinarian. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination as well as a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, complete blood count, and electrolyte panel. X-rays of cats with actinomycosis will typically demonstrate periosteal (outer layer of bone) new bone production, reactive osteosclerosis (hardening of bone), and osteolysis (dissolution of bone).
For a more definitive diagnosis your veterinarian will submit a specimen of pus or osteolytic bone fragments for culturing. Gram staining, cytology, and acid-fast staining may also be employed.
The cat's abscesses will be drained and lavaged for several days. In some cases, a penrose drain will be utilized, whereby a soft rubber tube is placed in the affected area to prevent fluid buildup. Depending on the severity of the infection, your veterinarian may also need to debride (cut open and/or remove tissue) or remove bone, which will require surgery.
Many veterinarians recommend the administration of antibiotics for a minimum of three to four months after the resolution of all signs. This will assist in fighting against other commonly associated microbes.
Living and Management
Observe the affected area for signs of infection and contact a veterinarian if the following signs are noted: itching, swelling, redness and/or draining. Otherwise, your veterinarian will schedule regular follow-up appointments to monitor your pet closely for recurrence. Redevelopment of infection at the initial site should be expected in about half of the cases.
A medical condition in which bone and bone marrow becomes inflamed
The membrane that covers the wall of the abdomen and pelvic area
An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness
The ability to create a disease where a disease might not normally be found, usually due to an ill timed or unlikely weakness
A product made of fluid, cell waste, and cells
The term for plant life or animal life that is microscopic
a) living in an environment lacking free oxygen b) pertaining to an organism with the ability to live in an environment lacking free oxygen.
The species that a living thing has descended from
A change in the way that tissue is constructed; a sore
Resists the effects of acids; has less of a chance of losing color due to acidic properties