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Severe Anaemia in a Cat

Annelise Enslin

Being from South Africa it was relatively easy diagnosing the cause of severe anaemia in dogs as almost always it was due to a blood parasite called Babesia (which we don’t have in New Zealand), and if it wasn’t that then the chances were good that it was due to an auto immune disease called Auto Immune Haemolytic Anaemia or IMHA for short.

So needless to say, since my arrival in New Zealand, I have been on the lookout for the feline blood parasite called Mycoplasma felis.  Mycoplasmoses are blood borne parasites that attack red blood cells and cause their breakdown within blood vessels. They are transmitted by biting insects, mainly fleas and ticks. There are 3 known species in New Zealand: M. felis, M. haemominutum, M. turicensis.

They can cause severe illness if the animal is already suffering from another condition causing a compromised immune system. Some of these diseases include Feline Immuno Deficiency Virus (FIV), Feline Leukaemia Virus(FeLV) and lymphoma (a common cancer in cats).


Pale and jaundiced mucous membranes in a cat

Earlier this year it was D-day.

A nine and a half year old cat who, for the purpose of this article we’ll call Timothy, was presented with the following symptoms:

  • Anorexia (not eating) for 4 days                                        
  • Severely lethargic
  •  Increased breathing rate and effort
  • Pale and jaundiced mucous membranes
  •  Heart rate of above 220 beats/min
  • Temperature of 39.4⁰C

Initial treatment, consisting of intravenous fluids and antibiotics, was started whilst waiting for blood results.

Blood results revealed Mycoplasma sp. in the red blood cells, severe neutropaenia (low white blood cell count) and severe non regenerative anaemia which means that the bone marrow was failing to produce new red blood cells.

Specific treatment for Mycoplasmosis was started and consisted of the antibiotic Doxycycline.

Since the anaemia was non regenerative together with the change in white blood cell numbers, underlying causes for poor regeneration was investigated and included testing for FIV and FeLV.  Timothy tested negative for both.  Even though Timothy tested negative for these 2 viruses that are commonly incriminated for immune suppression, he likely suffered some other underlying condition which had prevented his body from responding appropriately to the anaemia.

Timothy was continued on intravenous fluids and Doxycycline therapy. Unfortunately after 3 days he was still failing to produce new red blood cells in sufficient numbers and the decision was made to have him humanely euthanased.


Each little purple dot in the larger and paler red blood cells Indicate a Mycoplasma organism.











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