Feline Tuberculosis – what is it?

1st June 2017


Feline tuberculosis is thankfully a very rare disease in the UK. We do see it from time to time at Bollington Veterinary Centre, so we thought we'd share with you some of the key facts.


What is Feline Tuberculosis?

Feline tuberculosis (TB) develops after infection with a bacterial species known as Mycobacterium. These are a strange group of slow growing bacteria that typically cause lumps or thickenings at the point of entry into the body. Treatment is often required for many months or years.


4 common signs of Feline TB

1. Slow growing skin lumps – at Bollington Veterinary Centre we will be suspicious if we see slow growing skin lumps and enlarged lymph nodes. If the entry is via the gut then the thickening and disease will be in the bowel. The bacteria can also be inhaled causing nodules in the lungs, although this is rare.

2. Weight loss over weeks to months - usually as a result of chronic diarrhoea or vomiting. The thickened bowl may be palpable, irregular and uncomfortable.

3. Lethargy - tiredness and loss of interest is a common sign.

4. Breathing problems – look for an increased respiratory effort, sometimes with a cough.


Which cats are at risk?

  • Outdoor roaming cats - particularly those that hunt or fight. Some cats can develop TB as a result of bites from infected voles and mice.
  • Cats that come across cattle or badgers – these animals seem to be more at risk especially if they live in an area where TB is know to exist.


What areas of the UK are most at risk?

See this interactive map to show the worst affect areas in England and Wales http://www.ibtb.co.uk/ .


See an interactive map of TB in the UK


What should you do?

Most skin lumps and bumps are not TB, but if you find one, please bring your cat in to be seen and mention you are worried about TB.

If your cat has chronic diarrhoea or unexplained weight loss you should also be concerned and bring your cat in for a health check. In older cats there are a lot of other possible causes such as thyroid or kidney disease, so we'll often check for these as well.

Coughing is an unusual sign in cats, usually linked with asthma, but we are likely to investigate further if the cough coincides with weight loss and an increased respiratory effort.


Tell us if you are concerned