Tyzzer disease is a potentially fatal bacterial infection of dogs and cats which starts in the gastrointestinal tract and spreads to the liver causing severe damage to liver cells and intestines. Occasionally the infection can spread to the heart and lymph nodes. The causative microorganism is Clostridium piliformis which naturally lives in the intestines of many rodents. Cats may get infected through contacts with rodents. Sudden death from intestinal bleeding and liver failure may occur within 24 to 48 hours of exposure.1
Signs develop quickly. Look for sudden loss of appetitie, depression, swollen belly and discoloration of the gums. Puppies and kittens are most severely affected. The infection may complicate existing parasitic or viral infections, such as parvovirus, feline leukemia, or canine distemper virus. There is no cure for this disease.
The diagnosis of Tyzzer disease is difficult because Clostridium piliformis cannot be grown outside animal bodies. Instead, a mouse must be infected with this bacteria to determine the microorganism 2. Because the infection progresses so rapidly, the diagnosis is often made after the cat or kitten dies.