Case study: Meet Pickles!

Pickles is a gray polydactyl cat – meaning he has some extra toes – who came to Veterinary Referral Hospital of Hickory because he was lethargic, hypersalivating, and panting, and was not eating. Pickles also urinated on himself, which was very unusual. He is an indoor cat.

Pickles, a gray cat, sits in his kennel

Pickles in his kennel at Veterinary Referral Hospital of Hickory.

Pickles wasn’t experiencing digestive problems such as vomiting or diarrhea, but he did not eat or drink the night before. Pickles’ owners noted that he had not, to their knowledge, ingested anything out of the ordinary. He had no other known illnesses, and he was current on preventive care.

Critical-care specialist Sharon Finster, DVM, DACVECC, examined Pickles and began diagnostic testing to get to the bottom of the problem. Bloodwork showed a moderate to severe non-regenerative anemia, a very low red cell count that Pickles’ body wasn’t working to correct. Based on all available findings, Dr. Finster suspected hemotrophic mycoplasma. A blood sample was sent to an outside laboratory for testing. He was admitted to the hospital overnight and was put on an IV and given doxycycline, an antibiotic. He did not require a blood transfusion.

The next day, Pickles had much improved, and ate and drank normally. Veterinary Referral Hospital of Hickory continued to treat Pickles with doxycycline for presumed mycoplasma infection. Pickles responded well to the treatment and was able to go home with antibiotic therapy. A follow-up exam was scheduled for two days later. His blood test proved positive for mycoplasma haemofelis.

Feline Hemotrophic Mycoplasmosis (FHM), is an uncommon infection in cats caused by a parasite transmitted by flea bites. The parasite causes the body to prematurely destroy red blood cells. The destruction of the red blood cells results in anemia, which can be life-threatening. Because the infection is transmitted by fleas, many cats from stray background are carriers. Transmission by inanimate objects such as food bowls or litter trays is unlikely.

Signs of this infection include, as in Pickles’ case, lethargy and pale mucous membranes (such as the lining of the eyes and gums). However, many cases of FHM go undetected. Some cats are long-term carriers of the disease and even spread the disease to other cats, but won’t show signs of it until their immune systems are otherwise compromised or they are stressed. Because of this, Veterinary Referral Hospital of Hickory screens all feline blood donors before their first donation.

Pickles, a gray cat, shows his polydactyl paws.

Pickles shows off his polydactyl paws.

As with many parasite-related illnesses, a mycoplasma infection can be prevented with monthly flea and tick prevention.

When Pickles came in for his follow-up appointment, he received more doxycycline. Pickles’ owners were advised to continue the doxycycline for three weeks. Pickles was allowed to eat his regular diet and dictate his own activity level.

They report Pickles is now doing very well! He is active, bright, and alert.

Veterinary Referral Hospital of Hickory thanks Pickles’ parents and their veterinarian for trusting us with his care! Whenever something just isn’t right with your pet, seek advice from your veterinarian.


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