Fungal Infection: Aspergillosis in Cats


Aspergillosis is a fungal infection caused by Aspergillus fungus.

Aspergillosis is one of the most common kind of mold fungus found in hay, dust, grass, straw, decaying vegetation, dead leaves.

The primary mode of transmission is by inhalation of spores. Once in the system, it can either progress to Nasal Aspergillosis (respiratory illness) or Systemic (Disseminated) Aspergillosis (affects part or parts of the body organs). Affected cats will exhibit sneezing, coughing, secondary illnesses, lung and gastrointestinal infections. If not treated it can progress to life threatening Pneumonia.

Aspergillosis has a global distribution, it is present everywhere. It affects a variety of animals such as domestic animals, farm animals, wild animals and companion animals.

All cats are prone to this infection. The severity of the disease depends on the age of the cat, the extent of the infection and the cats immunity response. Cats with developing immunity (kittens and younger cats), cats with weakened immunity from existing infections and medical conditions, senior cats with lower resistance are prone to this infection.

Aspergillosis is a ZOONOTIC disease, which means humans can easily get infected.

Causes

Aspergillosis is caused by Aspergillus fungus and the primary route of transmission is inhalation of spores.

Clinical Signs & Symptoms

The incubation period for Aspergillosis can range between 2 weeks up-to 6 months. The symptoms can vary depending if the cat has Nasal Aspergillosis or Systemic Aspergillosis.

In case of Nasal Aspergillosis, symptoms are:
› Anorexia (Loss of Appetite)
› Pyrexia (Fever)
› Epistaxis (Bleeding from the nose)
› Pain
› Swelling on the nose
› Depression
› Lethargy
› Rhinitis (sneezing)
› Coughing
› Recurrent nasal discharges / runny nose
› Weakness
› Loss of skin on the nose and surrounding parts

Incase of Systemic or Disseminated Aspergillosis (when the fungus enters the blood stream and affects other organs), symptoms are:
› Pain in the spine
› Lethargy
› Weight loss
› Anorexia (Loss of Appetite)
› Pyrexia (Fever)
› Vomiting
› Panosteitis (Inflammation of the bones)

Systemic Aspergillosis happens over a long period of time.

Diagnosis

Veterinarians will require a complete history of your cat which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done with a combination of tests. These include routine lab examinations and special tests which can detect the presence of the fungus. They are:

› Physical examination
› Complete Blood Count (CBC)
› Urinalysis
› Fungal Culture test
› Biochemical profile

Other tests conducted are:
› Fungal Culture test (by taking swab samples from the nose)
› Rhinoscopy test (generally performed under anesthesia)
› X-rays (of the spine)
› Antibody test

Treatment

Treatment focuses on eradicating the fungus from the body and minimizing the affects caused. Treatment consists of:

› Anti-fungal medications (Oral)
› Anti-fungal medications (nasal under anesthesia)
› Drugs to treat secondary illnesses and diseases
› Fluid therapy (in-case of dehydration)
› Use of IV fluids

Prevention

Fungal infections cannot be prevented especially if it is contracted by inhalation. Keeping your cat indoors will reduce the risk of exposure to infectious agents. A stronger immunity will not only fight but will also help in a speedy recovery.

Home Care

Home care should aim at improving the condition. Treatments can take a few days to weeks, depending on the severity. If you observe any behavioral changes, or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian.

› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your cat. Keep water and food bowls within reach. Avoid physical activity. Keep your cats away from any noise and commotions.
› You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicine as directed by your veterinarian.
› Do NOT travel with your cat.
› Do NOT allow your cat to roam freely. This works two ways, firstly if the cat is infected, it greatly reduces the chances of risk of exposure to other pets and humans and secondly in-case of a healthy pet, it reduces the chances of contracting the infection.
› Use of environmental disinfectants is recommended. Prompt disposal of any and all materials after use is suggested.
› Routine and regular checkups to access the progress, further tests may be advised this includes Liver and kidney function tests, blood tests. Monitor and administer all medications as directed by your veterinarian and complete the dosage.
› Humans, especially children, pregnant women and ones handling infected pets need to exercise caution. Wear gloves when dealing with a pet, cleaning the litter boxes, disposing any and all contaminated materials, garbage disposals etc. A thorough wash of hands is advised. Practice hygiene.

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