What is Tyzzer's Disease?
Tyzzer's disease occurs most often in young, healthy cats who are fed a high protein diet. Cats who have a suppressed immune system or who are going through a period of stress are even more susceptible. The disease has an acute onset and, without supportive care, an infected cat may die within 48 hours. In some instances, the bacteria also produce a toxin that is harmful to the body. The infection will be far more severe if the toxin is present. The bacteria first travel to the intestinal tract. From there, the infection will spread to the liver and then to the heart of the animal. Clostridium piliforme create lesions in the liver and intestines, killing the tissue around the erosions.
Clostridium piliforme is a small, rod-shaped bacteria which can infect most mammals. It is capable of movement and has whip-like appendages. To live, it needs to exist in cellular tissue. The bacteria releases spores to spread to new life forms. These spores can survive for over a year in the proper environment, and can survive heat up to 60°C (140°F) for as long as 30 minutes. While it is rarely found in cats, it can cause an enterohepatic (affecting the circulation of liver secretions) syndrome called “Tyzzer's disease”.
Symptoms of Tyzzer's Disease in Cats
Symptoms will develop rapidly in an infected cat. Hospitalization and supportive care should be immediately sought upon symptom manifestation. All signs to watch for are listed as follows:
- Poor coat
- Loss of appetite
- Low body temperature
- Abdominal pain and distention
- Enlarged liver
- Fecal staining in the anal area
- Convulsions or seizures
Causes of Tyzzer's Disease in Cats
Generally, the cat must be exposed to Clostridium piliforme spores through its mouth to become infected. Cats who develop Tyzzer's disease often test positive for feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). All known causes are include:
- Exposure to infected feces
- Eating or drinking food or water where spores are present
- Sharing bedding with an infected animal
Diagnosis of Tyzzer's Disease in Cats
Once admitted to a veterinary clinic or animal hospital, you will be asked to provide your cat's medical history. You will be asked about the environment that your cat is exposed to and if the cat is allowed outdoors. Then, the veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of the cat, palpating the abdomen to feel for an enlarged liver, tenderness, or overall distention. Full blood work will be run including a complete blood count, a biochemical profile, an electrolyte panel, and urinalysis to determine liver function and overall health.
If high levels of liver enzymes are discovered, poor liver condition is to be expected. The higher the levels, the worse the infection has become. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay may be performed on a sample of feces to see if the bacteria has affected the DNA of the cat. The cat should also be tested for FeLV, FIV and FIP to see what has hindered the immune system. Either Warthin-Starry or Levaditi silver stains may be used on infected tissue samples to confirm the presence of Clostridium piliforme. These tests are often run postmortem during autopsy.
Treatment of Tyzzer's Disease in Cats
A fully effective treatment for Tyzzer's disease has yet to be found. Certain antibiotics may help fight the bacteria, whereas others seem to aggravate the infection.
Keeping the cat as comfortable as possible can help the body fight bacterial infections. Intravenous fluid may be administered to hydrate the cat. Painkillers and temperature control may also be used to bring the cat to the best possible state it can be while fighting the disease.
A few specific types of antibiotics have been found to help fight an infection of Clostridium piliforme in some cats. Tetracycline, erythromycin, penicillin or streptomycin may be prescribed if a positive response is noted in the cat.
Recovery of Tyzzer's Disease in Cats
Tyzzer's disease has a very low survival rate. If your cat does survive this infection, it may be left with severe anorexia and suffer from muscle wasting. It is important to have all new animals thoroughly checked by your veterinarian before letting them enter your home and interact with other pets. If any of the animals in your house begin to exhibit symptoms of Tyzzer's disease, isolate them immediately.
Sanitation is key in reducing cases of Clostridium piliforme infections. Clean all animal bedding on a regular basis with hot water and bleach. Any food or water dishes that an infected cat has touched should also be disinfected. Clean all litter boxes regularly and clear all feces and urine from the boxes on a daily basis. Prevention of Tyzzer's disease is the best defense, as no vaccine has been developed as of yet to prevent the infection and it is highly fatal.