Mycoplasma and bordetella are both bacterial infections that can wreak havoc with Kitty's health. While overlapping symptoms occur, there are others specific to the particular infection. Your vet will need to run tests for the correct diagnosis and treatment, as other bacteria and viruses also mimic these diseases.
Feline Infectious Anemia
Cats aren't the only victims of mycoplasma -- it affects other species ranging from people to plants. One of the most common mycoplasma infections in cats is better known as feline infectious anemia, although it's formal name is feline hemotropic mycoplasmosis. Cats pick up the infection from fleas. The mycoplasma then go to work on Kitty's red blood cells. Symptoms include fever, appetite loss, weakness, pale gums and jaundice. If untreated, feline infectious anemia can be fatal. Tetracyclines are the drug of choice for treating FIA, with three weeks of medication necessary to kill the bacteria. Extremely ill cats might require blood transfusions. An infected cat remains a carrier, but a topical monthly flea and tick preventive can stop the cycle of him transmitting the disease to other felines.
FIA isn't the only type of mycoplasma affecting cats. The infection can cause a variety of symptoms, ranging from miscarriage, skin abscesses, conjunctivitis, urinary tract difficulties, bloody urine and colitis. It can also cause coughing, sneezing and nasal discharge -- the same symptoms as bordetella. The body of a healthy cat can usually fight off the bacteria, but immune-compromised, sick or very stressed cats might not be so lucky. Your vet runs blood, urine and fecal tests to diagnose the infection. Most cats recover after a round of antibiotics.
Although kennel cough, or bordetella, is mostly associated with dogs, cats are also vulnerable. Since the bacteria causing the disease is called bordetella bronchiseptica, it's a pretty good guess that the upper respiratory system is involved. It's very contagious, so cats in shelters, boarding facilities or grooming salons -- anywhere there's a large number of strange cats -- are most likely to come down with bordetella. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, fever, raspy cough and swollen lymph nodes. Kitty might lose his appetite. While cats usually weather the infection, there's always a risk of pneumonia, especially in kittens and immune-suppressed felines.
To diagnose bordetella, your vet swabs your cat's throat and cultures the material. Most of the time, bordetella runs its course in about 10 days if your vet prescribes antibiotic treatment. Just as with FIA, tetracycline is most commonly used. If you board your cat frequently or he is exposed to many other cats, ask your vet about the bordetella vaccination. It's not one of the feline core vaccines, like rabies, and also isn't 100 percent effective. However, vaccinated cats who come down with bordetella generally have mild symptoms.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.