Feline Infectious Anemia

"Hemobortonellosis is other name for feline infectious anemia, which is caused by the gram negative, rickettsial bacterial agent Hemobortonella felis (Mycoplasma haemofelis). Infectious anemia in cats is characterized by two or more episodes of fever, followed by anemia (a decline in red blood cells). Other signs like jaundice, lethargy, weakness, depression and anorexia appear based on the severity of the anemia. Feline infectious anemia is diagnosed by confirming the presence of parasites in blood smears and the amount of red blood cells (RBC) in the bone marrow. Treatment can be accomplished with supportive and antibiotic therapy, while untreated cats usually die in hours after the onset of clinical signs."

Cause of Feline Infectious Anemia:

Hemobortonella felis is a gram negative, rickettsial agent, now grouped under the genus “Mycoplasma” due to the genetic similarities. The causative agent is 0.2 – 1 micrometers in size, and appears to be cocci (oval) under the microscope. H. Felis usually attachers to the receptors of red blood cells (RBC). Transmission naturally occurs via blood sucking arthropods, blood transfusions and sometimes by oral ingestion of infected blood mass by cats. The disease is more common in males and cats that are age 1 – 3 years.

Signs and Symptoms of Feline Infectious Anemia:

Infectious feline anemia can be considered as the cause for any anemic cat. The Incubation period is 1 – 7 weeks and fever is the first sign. Two or more episodes of fever ranging from 103 – 106 degrees Fahrenheit are usually seen before the onset of anemia. The severity of the anemia defines the presence and degree of other symptoms. Along with anemia, an affected cat may experience jaundice, lethargy, weakness, anorexia, depression and the involvement of spleen. The spleen may get enlarged and secondary complications can develop thereafter, but are less frequent.

In chronic cases of infectious anemia, the body temperature remains sub normal or normal, while jaundice usually resolves itself. Dyspnea (difficulty in breathing) may also be seen in severely anemic cats.

Diagnosis of Infectious Feline Anemia:

Clinical signs, symptoms and taking a history can be helpful, but usually a confirmatory laboratory diagnosis is essential in determining the course of treatment. A causative agent can be confirmed by determining its presence by using a technique that lasts several days called a Wright – Geimsa stain. Repeated examination and blood smearing is usually recommended to exclude any mistakes, as a general appearance of parasite can be mistaken for other organisms like Cytauxoon felis and/or dirt particles.

The degree of anemia is diagnosed by a hole blood and RBC packed cell volume (PCV) test.

Treatment of Infectious Feline Anemia:

Infectious feline anemia can be effectively treated by applying specific and supportive therapy modules. Untreated cases of feline infectious anemia worsen; it is proven by a study that one third of untreated cats die that have an acute case of feline infectious anemia.

Severe anemia can cause dyspnea, therefore such cats may require oxygen. Blood transfusion should be a priority for cats whose results from a packed cell volume (PCV) test is less then 15%. Whole blood or RBC transfusion can be administered.

Tetracyclines are considered effective with a dose rate of 20 mg/Kg B.W per oral therapy for at least 21 days. Doxycycline at a dose rate of 10 mg/Kg B.W per oral for 21 days is also effective, but tetracycline cannot eliminate the pathogen completely from body, resulting in the host acting as a future carrier of the disease.

Choleramphenicol is also effective but is not recommended as it may cause reversible cellular damage and hypoplasia (under development) in the vascular system.

Glucocorticoids can be used in combination with antibiotics, in those cases, where vascular cell injury and hemolytic activity (destruction of red blood cells) is noted, especially in cats which show signs of jaundice.

Added support may be provided by a homeopathic remedy designed for cats that are suffering from parasites. Parasite Dr. Capsules  combines natural ingredients that are designed to naturally expel parasites, support the blood and strengthen the immune system in cats. It might be worth reviewing and be a subject of discussion with your veterinarian. This isn't a replacement for the conventional therapies mentioned above, since feline infectious anemia can be a deadly disease, but it could provide an added level of support.


The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health (Home Edition)


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