OBJECTIVE: To record 17 cases of nocardiosis in cats from eastern Australia and to compare this series with cases previously reported. DESIGN: Retrospective/prospective study. RESULTS: Nocardia spp infections were diagnosed in 17 cats over 14 years from the three eastern states of Australia. There were no isolates from dogs during this period, but one isolate from a koala and two from dairy cows. The majority of cats presented with spreading lesions of the subcutis and skin associated with draining sinus tract(s). Early cutaneous lesions consisted of circumscribed abscesses. Infections spread at a variable rate, generally by extension to adjacent tissues. Lesions were generally located in regions subjected to cat bite or scratch injuries, including limbs, body wall, inguinal panniculus and nasal bridge. In some other cases, lesions were situated on distal extremities. The clinical course was variable, from chronic, indolent, initially localised infections to acute fulminating disease. Of the 17 cats, 14 were domestic crossbreds and three were purebreds. There was a preponderance of male cats (12 castrated, 1 entire young adult, 1 entire kitten). Nine of 17 cats were 10 years or older. Interestingly, the majority of infections were attributable to N nova. Immediate and/or predisposing causes could be identified in all cases, and included: renal transplantation [one cat]; chronic corticosteroid administration [three cats]; catabolic state following chylothorax surgery [one cat]; fight injuries [seven cats]; FIV infections [three of seven cats tested]. Of the 17 cats, three were apparently cured. Four were thought to be cured, but infection recurred after several months. Three cats responded partially but were euthanased, while another was improving when it died of unrelated complications. Two died despite treatment and two were euthanased without an attempt at therapy. For two cats there were either insufficient records or the patient was lost to follow up. CONCLUSION: Nocardiosis is a rare, serious disease. Currently it is more common in cats than dogs. Nocardial panniculitis may be clinically indistinguishable from the syndrome caused by rapidly growing mycobacteria. Although the prognosis is guarded, patients with localised infections caused by N nova often respond to appropriate therapy. If definitive treatment is delayed because of misdiagnosis, the disease tends to become chronic, extensive and refractory. Insufficient duration of therapy leads to disease recurrence.
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