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Tuberculosis in Dogs and Cats

Posted June 11, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

What is tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis — the very word strikes fear into people. Countries like the United States work very hard to prevent significant reintroduction of tuberculosis, but it’s widespread in developing countries. With modern transportation, tuberculosis is never more than a plane ride away.

In 2012, almost, "9 million people around the world became sick with tuberculosis," according to The CDC. “There were around 1.3 million tuberculosis-related deaths worldwide.”

Sick dog laying downTuberculosis is uncommon in dogs and cats.  The New Jersey Department of Health reports that, “75% of canine cases are caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis,” which is most commonly transmitted by infected humans to animals. “Cases in dogs are associated with repeated aerosol exposure from living with humans infected with tuberculosis, or consuming contaminated sputa, milk, or tissue. 90% of cases in cats are associated with Mycobacterium bovis” (cattle tuberculosis). Most cat infections have been reported in the U.K., but the disease is seen in other countries as well. Infection with M. avium complex occurs occasionally in cats.

What are the symptoms of tuberculosis in dogs and cats?
Clinical signs vary between dogs and cats and also vary with the species of Mycobacteria.

In dogs infected with M. tuberculosis, if infection is by ingestion, the intestines are the primary target. Common signs include:

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Anorexia and
  • Harsh, non-productive coughing

If the infection occurred by bite wound, then clinical signs begin with skin granulomas.

According to International Cat Care, feline tuberculosis symptoms — caused by ingesting M. bovis — include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Inappetence
  • Weight loss

Whereas infection through the skin may cause “non-healing sores and/or nodules."

Is tuberculosis contagious from dogs to humans?
There have been few confirmed cases of transmission from dogs to humans. It is more likely for dogs to be infected by humans.

Is tuberculosis contagious from cats to humans?
Although there have been several cases when M. bovis has appeared to transmit from cats to people, there appears to be little risk of transmission from cats.

How is tuberculosis treated in dogs and cats?
Because of the uncertain potential for transmission of tuberculosis from the infected dog or cat to people, especially children, treatment is not recommended. Most animals diagnosed with tuberculosis are euthanized. Sadly, long term medical treatment has not been proven effective.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.