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Parasitic Blood Infection (Haemobartonellosis) in Dogs

Hemotrophic Mycoplasmosis (Haemobartonellosis) in Dogs

Mycoplasma, a class of bacterial parasites belonging to the order of Mollicutes, poses a distinct challenge due to its ability to survive without oxygen and its lack of true cell walls, rendering it resistant to antibiotics. This resilience makes it particularly difficult to detect and treat. Mycoplasma is commonly associated with urinary tract infections and pneumonia in dogs.

Hemotrophic mycoplasmosis occurs when the mycoplasma parasite M. haemocanis infects the red blood cells. In dogs, this infection typically doesn’t manifest noticeable symptoms or lead to severe anemia (a shortage of red blood cells), unless the dog has undergone a splenectomy, the surgical removal of the spleen. The spleen plays a crucial role in filtering and eliminating damaged red blood cells. Without it, the mycoplasma parasite can proliferate more robustly within the body, resulting in systemic effects due to the overload of damaged blood cells.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms of hemotrophic mycoplasmosis in dogs are typically mild, except in cases where the spleen has been surgically removed. These symptoms may include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Listlessness
  • Gums appearing whitish to pale purple
  • Infertility observed in both genders


The mycoplasma bacteria primarily spreads through ticks and fleas that have fed on infected animals. Transmission can also occur through animal fights, involving the exchange of body fluids, and rarely through blood transfusions where infected blood from one animal is transferred to an uninfected one. There is currently no conclusive evidence to suggest that transmission of the mycoplasma from a mother to her young, typically through milk, occurs in dogs.

  1. haemocanis (previously classified as H. canis) is the primary type of mollicute responsible for causing this condition.


Your veterinarian will conduct a comprehensive physical examination of your dog, considering the background history of symptoms and any potential incidents that may have triggered the current condition. You will be required to provide detailed information about your dog’s health and recent activities. A thorough blood chemical profile will be performed, encompassing a complete blood count, a urinalysis, and a blood smear. The blood smear will undergo staining to detect the presence of mycoplasmas. Additionally, your veterinarian may employ a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or a Coombs’ test to conclusively identify the mycoplasmas in the blood.


If the disease is detected early, your dog will likely receive antibiotic treatment and be discharged. Depending on the severity of the infection, your veterinarian will prescribe either a standard or extended course of antibiotics for your dog. If anemia is also present, a course of steroid therapy may be necessary. Hospitalization is typically reserved for severely anemic or very ill and lethargic dogs. Fluid therapy, and potentially blood transfusions, may be required to stabilize your dog if the condition has progressed to a severe stage. Without treatment, this disease can lead to fatal outcomes.

Recovery and Management

Your veterinarian will need to assess your dog’s progress about a week after treatment initiation, conducting a red blood cell count to evaluate mycoplasma levels. Even after complete recovery, an infected dog can remain a carrier of the disease. If you have other dogs at home, it’s essential to monitor them for potential symptoms and take prompt action if any symptoms arise. Additionally, refrain from breeding affected dogs until your veterinarian provides clearance. It’s worth noting that while the condition described can affect both dogs and cats, it is not transmissible between the two species.

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