What is Bacterial Infection (Mycoplasma)?
Mycoplasmas are a large family of gram-negative bacteria that lack a cell wall. They are considered to be the smallest form of life capable of reproducing (as opposed to viruses). Many species of mycoplasma are commensal, meaning they live in other organisms without either hurting or harming them, but others cause infection especially when they are able to proliferate in large numbers. There are hundreds of species of mycoplasma. They cause disease in many different animals, including dogs and humans, but species are typically host specific. At least fifteen different species have been identified in dogs. Mycoplasmas are commonly associated with the canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD), also known as kennel cough. They are just one of a number of different organisms responsible for CIRD. Mycoplasma infection in the respiratory tract weakens a dog, increasing susceptibility to bacterial and viral infection. In many cases, it can be hard to tell which organism is the primary cause. Most studies show that mycoplasmas live in the upper respiratory tract of healthy dogs, but when they descend into the lower respiratory tract they cause infection and even pneumonia in severe cases. Mycoplasmas are also found in the genitourinary system in dogs; species that affect this area are categorized under the separate heading ureaplasmas. As in the respiratory system, ureaplasmas are part of the normal bacteria flora that colonize in healthy dogs, but under conditions of stress or immune-suppression they can proliferate and cause lesions that lead to infertility. Additionally, species of mycoplasma can attack red blood cells and cause anemia. These are called hemitropic mycoplasmas or hemoplasmas. They are transmitted through ticks and parasites, or dog to dog via blood transfusions or other methods of fluid exchange. They rarely cause symptoms in healthy dogs, but pets with a compromised immune system (especially from splenectomy) can develop severe hemolytic anemia and other symptoms of ill health.
Mycoplasmas are groups of very small bacteria that lack a cell wall. Some species can cause an infection called mycoplasmosis in dogs. Respiratory symptoms are the most common, but the bacteria can also affect the reproductive and urinary systems, and blood pathogens may cause anemia. Kennel dogs and dogs with weakened immune systems are more at risk.
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Symptoms of Bacterial Infection (Mycoplasma) in Dogs
Symptoms can vary depending on where the bacteria are located. These are some of the signs you might notice in your dog.
- Inflammation of the nose (rhinitis)
- Eye inflammation (conjunctivitis)
- Fluid build-up and discharge from the eyes
- Difficulty breathing (pneumonia)
- Infection in the bladder, urinary tract or vagina
- Joint disease (polyarthritis)
- General systemic illness (weight loss, fever)
- Neurological symptoms (meningoencephalitis)
These are some of the different types of mycoplasma that might relate to your dog’s diagnosis.
- Mycoplasmas species most commonly identified in dogs (mycoplasma canis, mycoplasma cynos)
- Acholeplasmas – a slightly different category of mycoplasma, one species has been identified in dogs called acholeplasma laidlawii
- Ureaplasma – a number of different species found specifically in the urinary tract
- Hemoplasmas – a blood mycoplasma that causes anemia
- Mycoplasma haemocanis – the hemoplasma most commonly found in dogs
Causes of Bacterial Infection (Mycoplasma) in Dogs
Mycoplasmosis is an opportunistic disease that is influenced by your dog’s overall health as well as exposure to the bacteria.
Exposure to the bacteria
- Contact with sick dogs
- Staying in a kennel or shelter (especially long term)
- Possible air contamination with M. cynos (found in one study)
- Mating with infected dogs
- Blood transfusion
- Blood exchange during fighting
Dog’s overall health
- Infection with another bacteria or virus
- Infection with several species of mycoplasma at the same time
- Immune system suppressed from another treatment (chemotherapy or medication for an autoimmune disorder)
- Any long term disease
Diagnosis of Bacterial Infection (Mycoplasma) in Dogs
The veterinarian will analyze your dog’s symptoms as well as testing for the presence of mycoplasma in cultured samples. Respiratory symptoms are nonspecific, so it is difficult to tell if CIRD is caused by mycoplasma or another organism. Other symptoms such as urinary tract or genital infection will produce different symptoms. If your dog is experiencing generalized symptoms of illness or malaise, blood work may show anemia. Joint pain and lameness can also suggest more systemic mycoplasmosis. Any other factors, like other diseases, medications that suppresse the immune system, or a recent stay at a kennel can be relevant.
It is not very easy to test for different species of mycoplasma because of their small size, and also difficulties with preserving and culturing the bacteria. M. canis and m. cynos can be identified with quantitative PCR testing, but other species may be harder to differentiate. A general diagnosis of mycoplasma may be given rather than an identification of specific species.
Other tests will focus on ruling out different causes for your dog’s symptoms. Bloodwork and urinalysis will be necessary. The veterinarian will also test for other bacterial and viral infection as these are commonly concurrent with mycoplasmosis.
Treatment of Bacterial Infection (Mycoplasma) in Dogs
Mycoplasma do not respond to traditional beta-lam antibiotics (such a penicillin) because these drugs work by destroying the cell wall. However many tetracycline type antibiotics can be effective and doxycycline is frequently prescribed. The antibiotic will need to be taken for at least two weeks with an upper respiratory infection, and longer if your dog has lower respiratory symptoms or pneumonia. The veterinarian will prescribe an appropriate antibiotic dosage based on your dog’s symptoms. It’s important to continue treatment even after the symptoms have stopped in order to ensure that all the bacteria are killed and do not become resistant. Any immunosuppressant medication will need to be discontinued if possible to ensure the effectiveness of the antibiotic. Dogs with severe hemolytic anemia may need blood transfusion or glucocorticoids.
Recovery of Bacterial Infection (Mycoplasma) in Dogs
In most cases, dogs will make a complete recovery. Antibiotic treatment is typically effective, however dogs with hemoplasmas will still remain carriers after treatment. They can transmit the disease to other dogs and may experience clinical relapse occasionally. This condition is much easier to treat in the early stages, so it’s a good idea to make sure your dog has regular check-ups.
Mycoplasma can be managed most effectively by practicing proper hygiene and keeping your dog in good health. Avoid conditions of over-crowding, regularly clean out any kennels, wash and change bedding. Prompt treatment for infected animals can avoid spreading the disease. Make sure your dog has a healthy diet. Vitamins and supplements can sometimes help to support the immune system, so discuss the best choices with your veterinarian.
Bacterial Infection (Mycoplasma) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I have an adopted dog from another country. He was diagnosed with mycoplasma by PCR which was presumed from ticks. He underwent a month course of doxy. Repeat PCR 6wk later was, again, positive. He appears asymptomatic. Only lab abnormality - had proteinuria on urine (initially and at ~12 weeks). LDH normal. Not anemic. Normal WBC count. They are considering a longer course or another round of antibiotics. (I'm a people doctor and understand microbiology reasonably well). I presume he's an asymptomatic carrier. In reviewing what I could online, I don't see any indication for recurrent antibiotics or workup since he is doing fine and prior labs were normal. Does this sound reasonable?
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My dog has mycoplasma cynos PCR positive, she is on antibiotics and my daughter has a pug here that is 9 yrs old,, she is on antibiotics because we believe she is sick from my dog. my question is can humans get sick? I ask because i got a viral infection,, and now my daughter is complaining about not feeling well and so is my grandson??
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7 Days ago we adopted a rescue dog, Cody, from a shelter. We brought him home and soon realized he was sick and became concerned that he would pass something to our other dog, Benji, that we already have. We took Cody to the vet the next morning and they ordered a culture and gave him a cough suppressant as well. The culture results came back a few days later and he did have mycoplasma; we started the new dog on antibiotics right away and he is now on his third day of treatment.
My concern is more for more Benji, who is 5 years old and in good overall health. Our house is not very big and the two dogs have definitely interacted this week. What is the likelihood that Benji will get mycoplasma? Is it a 100% chance or are there other factors that might lead to him not contracting it? If he were to get it, when might we expect him to start showing symptoms? As mentioned, we are 7 days in with both dogs together and Cody has been on cough supressant for 6 days and antibiotic for 3 days. If there is anything proactive we can do in the meantime, please let us know.
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It seems as though our 14 yr Aussie shep is experiencing these symptoms and has had recent contact with an infected kennel. I personally have an autoimmune disease/weakness...Can the following symptoms have been transferred to myself: Sore throat, loss appetite, excessive fatigue, head aches.
There are many species of Mycoplasma, but there are reports of immunosuppressed humans contracting some types of Mycoplasma. The best course of action would be to identify the species of Mycoplasma and consult with your Physician for yourself. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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