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What are Cryptococcosis?

Once a fungal infection has set in, it can turn into a systemic disease affecting multiple internal organs. It often spreads to the central nervous system, the skin (especially on the face and neck), the eyes, bone marrow, liver and kidneys. If these organs begin to fail, the infection can be life-threatening. There is a possibility that spores can infect an open wound, although this is rare. The upper respiratory aspect of the infection can progress into pneumonia. Granuloma masses can grow in the nasal cavity due to cryptococcosis. Veterinary attention is needed to relieve and cure a cryptococcosis infection in a cat.

The fungi Cryptococcus neoformans is a yeast-like growth that releases infectious spores into the air. It can be present in decomposing plant or animal material but is most often found in pigeon droppings. The spores cause severe upper respiratory and nasal problems in affected cats. Only a small number of exposed cats develop infection. Generally, these cats are suffering from a suppressed immune system. It is estimated that up to seven percent of all cats have cryptococcus spores present in their body, but only a very small amount of these cats will produce symptoms. 

Cryptococcosis Average Cost

From 203 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,100

Symptoms of Cryptococcosis in Cats

Upper respiratory symptoms are the most common signs of a cryptococcosis infection. Other signs will become present as the infection progresses. It is important to identify this fungal infection before it starts to impact the function of major internal organs. Symptoms are as follows:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Growths in the nostrils
  • Swelling over the bridge of the nose
  • Skin lesions
  • Ulceration
  • Depression
  • Change in behavior
  • Head tilting
  • Circling
  • Seizures
  • Partial paralysis
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nystagmus (involuntary rapid movement of the eye)
  • Blindness (caused by the retina detaching or other related issues)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
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Causes of Cryptococcosis in Cats

As the cryptococcus fungus grows in decomposing organic material, all outdoor cats are at risk of exposure. Infection is generally a sign of an underlying immune system issue. All known factors of cryptococcosis infection are listed below.

  • Exposure to infected soil
  • Exposure to fowl manure
  • Feline leukemia virus
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus
  • Genetic predisposition (as sometimes seen in the Siamese cat breed)
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Diagnosis of Cryptococcosis in Cats

At your veterinary appointment, you will be required to provide your cat’s medical history to the vet. The veterinarian will then perform a complete physical examination to note all symptoms showing in the cat. Cryptococcosis can be easily diagnosed with a variety of tests. Cytologic evaluation of nasal or ocular discharge, skin scrapings or granuloma masses can provide a fast confirmation of cryptococcosis infection.

Gram stains may be useful to identify the fungus, as organisms will show as a crystal violet color, while capsules will turn light red, making an obvious distinction between the two. Wright stains, while more common, may be less effective as they can cause organisms to shrink and capsules to distort. Making an impression smear during staining can help for further examination of samples at a later time.

Biopsies of lesional tissue may also be helpful for the diagnosing process. Testing blood serum and urine can reveal secondary bacterial infections from open wounds and a suppressed immune system. FeLV and FIV should be tested for at this time.

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Treatment of Cryptococcosis in Cats

The goal of treatment of cryptococcosis in cats is to rid the body of the infectious fungi. If an underlying cause of immune suppression is found, it too should be treated. Secondary bacterial infections should also be rectified to restore health to the cat.

Antifungal Medication 

A prescription of antifungal medication will be needed to eradicate cryptococcosis from the body. Medications such as fluconazole, itraconazole or ketoconazole may be prescribed for several months or more to eliminate the infection.

Antibiotics 

If a secondary infection is found in the body, the corresponding antibiotics will be prescribed to rid the body of the harmful bacteria. 

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Recovery of Cryptococcosis in Cats

It is important to administer the full course of medication for treatment to be effective. You may need to monitor your cat for the development of side effects from the antifungal medication. Dosage of the prescription may need to be adjusted depending on the side effect severity. Follow-up appointments with the veterinarian will be necessary to evaluate if the infection is dissipating. 

The only way to fully prevent exposure to cryptococcus fungus is to keep your cat indoors. You need to prevent the cat from entering contaminated environments, especially damp structures. Infected droppings can emit spores for several years. Keeping your cat indoors will also shelter it from feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus exposure.

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Cryptococcosis Average Cost

From 203 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,100

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Cryptococcosis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Kitty

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American Shorthair

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18 Years

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Serious severity

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2 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Appetite Loss
Wobbly

Hello. My cat was diagnosed with cryptococcas at the beginning of March. She was put on fluconazole and prednisolone. The disease took her vision, unfortunately. She now has an extremely low titer, like 1-39. She was taken off of the prednisolone a few weeks ago, so she’s had a little less energy. She has improved significantly since March but she still doesn’t eat on her own (we syringe feed her) and doesn’t purr. Those were the last two things to go before we took her into the hospital, but I’m hoping they will be the last to return. If they haven’t returned yet, will they ever return? It’s hard to research this disease, there isn’t a lot out there about this. Will she never eat on her own or purr ever again?

Aug. 9, 2018

Kitty's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

It is difficult to predict how Kitty will respond, normally we can judge severity and use that as a yardstick for prognosis but some studies have shown that severity and prognosis are not correlated for this condition making it difficult to determine. You should continue with treatment and supportive care which may be lifelong; follow your Veterinarian’s instructions. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 9, 2018

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Coconut

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DOMESTIC

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2 Days

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Critical severity

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2 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic
Congestion
Equilibrium

My cat has been diagnosed with cryptococcosis. She had an enlarged lymph node & difficulty breathing . We’ve been prescribed fluconazole It had shrunk the lymph node. Now she is having trouble with balance. The vet has doubled the dosage of fluconazole Is there anything else we can do ? It’s horrible to see her having trouble walking. She is about 2 years old. She is managing to eat & drink some despite the congestion https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/cryptococcosis

June 2, 2018

Coconut's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Cryptococcus can spread to the lining of the brain and spinal cord, and can cause meningitis - Coconut's signs may be changing, and she may need additional medications. It would be best to have a recheck for her with your veterinarian, as they can assess her and see what therapy she may need.

June 2, 2018

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Harper

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domestic short hair

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Enlarged Lymph Nodes

My cat was diagnosed with Cryptococcosis in March. She started off with just heavy breathing and enlarged lymph nodes. She was taking Itraconazole for almost 30 days when I noticed that her gums around her top smaller teeth were super swollen and looked infected. I took her back to the vet and we got a head CT to see where everything was at. My vet then decided that we should switch her to Terbinafine. She’s only been taking it for 4 days. She has no behavioral changes, super cuddley and playful. Her appetite was low prior to starting itraconazole, then it went back to normal and has remained consistent. She seems like her normal self, other than the physical syptoms... I’m just really stressed out because maybe we switched the medication too soon? Or maybe not soon enough? Harper’s my first pet and emotional support animal and I can’t lose her ):

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Princess

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Feline

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8 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Loss Of Appetite
Sleeping More
Bloody Discharge
Eye Swelling
Rapid Onset
Facial Swelling On One Side.
Sinus Swelling
Secondary Bacterial Infection
Hard Dry Stools
Consentrated Urine
Swelling Between Cells-Weep
Bloody Eye Discharge
Literally Unsightly To Behold
Complex Disease
Long Treatment Needed

To make a long story short, my cat perished because hometown vets can't diagnose cryptococcosis, Proof-you were sent home with only an antibiotic you administer and it get worse by the hour. You have the classic nasal bridge swelling, probably on one side of the face. Mine also deeply hides the eye behind swollen tissue, some can be skin lumps, any organ/tissue group can be involved unfortunately. You will need an antiFUNGAL otherwise the mass will eat away(inside and out) and double daily, Prove it-take a pic of your animal and compare it to tomorrow. On my life, you better seek test competent care. he best of the best. Two hometown vets cost me 1000$ to watch her suffer for five weeks, until I was referred to U of M -a facility that could diagnose the disease(your only chance here folks, without a diagnosis you're screwed) Allowing the appropriate treatment, once you have a diagnosis your hometown vet might be able to jump back on board, but not until. I opt euthanasia. Hopefully you find this before it's too late. Flashback-Looked at her walk this morning, very wobbly, (L)eye region the size of a tennis ball-encompesses (L)face ((L)eye, (L)side of nose, (L)some cheek, unusual shaped swelling looked to be compressible by sleeping? as the new extension looks square at day of demise. Eye's in there somewhere, compressed in about a 3/4 inch of swollen tissue-eek, the whole mass is oozing from the pressure, sinus looks extended and full-nasal bridge extended 3x in size- holding head up while sleeping-watching her fall asleep and hit her eye, just to breath lord have mercy, tongue sticking out, getting worse by the hour. It's not fair. U of M now huh? I realize they gave me a lot of "we can help", and then always failed to deliver the actual diagnosis or even be willing to treat it as a suspected, good lord I wish I could submit a picture and ask, how could it not be. Tells me they didn't take 30 seconds to even look. I'm angry. I was talked into cultures, that cost a week of waiting and false hope. Now I realize it was bacterial cultures for what that was worth... (xrays to make sure dental excluded as a cause-@ day 5-already significant swelling-eye swelled closed.) Sent with antibiotics at this time. Called to get antifungals-obtained 10 day supply Itraconazole(the only antifungals she actually received) Called for refill-Vet #1 said It must be a tumor(remember rate of growth here folks is startling) that would be quite a tumor by god, wanted CT, no refill on med, knocked out and aspirated area-"no cancer" no CT then go away. Vet #2 (Week 3-5) Exam, antibiotic(bacterial med) Wait on cultures-kinda thought that was gonna be a diagnose as we specifically had the conversation about what was going on. Guess how much your opinion matters. 0. That's a fact. If they can't get that kind of diagnosis at their facility DON'T waste another second. No antifungal meds from vet #2 ever, a good antibiotic but- I'm embarrassed and mortified, knowing she could have been helped at an earlier stage. They were unfamiliar with that disease process and its severity. She paid dearly with her life. She was wasting away and her face looked like it should explode any moment. Didn't have to. I should be taking her back for titers with signs of improvement at week 5 of treatment, instead I put her down due to lies and deceit while the illness rampaged on.

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Kitty

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American Shorttail

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11 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Respiratory

Kitty (Indoor cat) was diagnosed about a month ago with cryptococcus in the lung/heart area. First saw symptoms of an unusual cough or attempt to clear a hairball about 2 weeks prior. Took to two vets that diagnosed him with lymphoma in the area mentioned earlier due to vitals and ultrasound showing a mass. Decided on a biopsy that concluded his fungal infection - so excited for hope at this point. Currently 1 month in after fluconazole treatment with tube feeding - stopped eating prior to the first ER visit when he collapsed - still not eating. He’s become quite active, meowing a bit more with his e-tube in place and crossing our fingers to eat by himself in month 2. It’s a marathon, but so far the signs of life we saw before everything happened is coming back. If you find unusual attempts to clear a hairball, we have video to show potentially what it could be if in the chest. Again, for an indoor cat, this is very rare as mentioned in the descriptions. Will keep those informed if requested - we expect around 8 months of treatment.

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Neemo

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tabby

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16 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Wobbly, Loss Of Appetite, Nystagmus

Our 16 year old orange tabby, Neemo had his teeth cleaned, with 3 extractions, last November. In January he started exhibiting signs of nasal congestion. He was misdiagnosed until April this year. He has taken Fluconazole for 1 month. Also an appetite stimulant, Mirataz was prescribed. Over the weekend he started to stumble and his head was tilting to his left. We thought he'd had a stroke. We took him to the ER Specialty clinic in Tualatin, Oregon. The doctor there, Dr. Andy, consulted with the Vet Specialist, Dr. Tobin at Sun Stone Vet who diagnosed Neemo. They concluded the fungus had migrated to his brain and there was really nothing that could be done. I see that the recent symptoms are all symptoms of Crytococcus. We are feeding him food and water via a syringe. Their recommendation is to euthanize Neemo as any other care and diagnostics would likely not be treatable and be very expensive. They gave him fluids and sent us home. Are they correct? Is there nothing to be done?

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Queen Latifah

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Cat

dog-age-icon

4 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

No Appetite And Listless

i rescued my little 2 year old girl a year ago as my last kitty died at 19 and my other 19 year old kitty was so sad. The two of them loved each other at first mew. we were all so happy and then about two months later she became so ill. I took her to a specialist and we did a series of tests. at first they thought she had a cancerous mass on her lung but it turned out to be crypto. :(. this was 6 months ago. the first month i was cyringe feeding but it was so stressful for my girl and me so we went the feeding tube route. her mass has shrunken a lot but her liver values raised because of the meds so now she is on liver support along with her Intrafungal, prednes. low dose and clavamox. about a month ago she started to eat on her own but we kept the tube in just in case and now she has not eaten in three weeks. this is a very very hard thing to get rid of but i am trying to stay positive. I take her for bookwork often to see if it going away. my vet said it can take 8-9 months. I want to get another cat as I know she will like it as she can't even groom herself properly.

Cryptococcosis Average Cost

From 203 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,100

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