Clinical, clinicopathologic, and pathologic features of plague in cats: 119 cases (1977-1988)

Millicent Eidson From the Office of Epidemiology, New Mexico Department of Health, PO Box 26110, Santa Fe, NM, 87502 (Eidson, Rollag) and Veterinary Diagnostic Services, New Mexico Department of Agriculture, 700 Camino de Salud NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87106 (Thilsted).

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John P. Thilsted From the Office of Epidemiology, New Mexico Department of Health, PO Box 26110, Santa Fe, NM, 87502 (Eidson, Rollag) and Veterinary Diagnostic Services, New Mexico Department of Agriculture, 700 Camino de Salud NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87106 (Thilsted).

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Ole J. Rollag From the Office of Epidemiology, New Mexico Department of Health, PO Box 26110, Santa Fe, NM, 87502 (Eidson, Rollag) and Veterinary Diagnostic Services, New Mexico Department of Agriculture, 700 Camino de Salud NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87106 (Thilsted).

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Summary

The clinical, clinicopathologic, and pathologic features of 119 cases of plague in cats from 1977 to 1988 in New Mexico were reviewed. Fifty-three percent were bubonic, 10% were pneumonic, 8% were septicemic, and 29% with neither buboes nor pneumonia were unclassified (but presumed septicemic). Three quarters of the lymphadenopathy was submandibular, and almost half of this was bilateral. One third of all cats had the triad of lethargy, anorexia, and fever in addition to buboes; one quarter had this triad plus abscesses. The overall mortality rate was 33%, with the greatest risk of death in pneumonic cases. For confirmatory diagnosis with a single laboratory test, fluorescent antibody was most frequently used (39% of cases). Cultures and passive hemagluttination titers were also used for confirmation. Gross and histologic findings depended on the type of plague, with Yersinia pestis organisms visualized in buboes of cats with bubonic plague and in the alveolar spaces and respiratory tubules of cats with pneumonic plague.

Summary

The clinical, clinicopathologic, and pathologic features of 119 cases of plague in cats from 1977 to 1988 in New Mexico were reviewed. Fifty-three percent were bubonic, 10% were pneumonic, 8% were septicemic, and 29% with neither buboes nor pneumonia were unclassified (but presumed septicemic). Three quarters of the lymphadenopathy was submandibular, and almost half of this was bilateral. One third of all cats had the triad of lethargy, anorexia, and fever in addition to buboes; one quarter had this triad plus abscesses. The overall mortality rate was 33%, with the greatest risk of death in pneumonic cases. For confirmatory diagnosis with a single laboratory test, fluorescent antibody was most frequently used (39% of cases). Cultures and passive hemagluttination titers were also used for confirmation. Gross and histologic findings depended on the type of plague, with Yersinia pestis organisms visualized in buboes of cats with bubonic plague and in the alveolar spaces and respiratory tubules of cats with pneumonic plague.

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