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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Nocardiosis in Dogs

By Otto M. Radostits, CM, DVM, MSc, DACVIM (Deceased), Professor Emeritus, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan ; David A. Ashford, DVM, MPH, DSc, Assistant Area Director, International Services, APHIS, USDA ; Craig E. Greene, DVM, MS, Professor, Department of Small Animal Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia ; Eugene D. Janzen, DVM, MVS, Professor, Production Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary ; Bert E. Stromberg, PhD, Professor, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota ; Max J. Appel, DMV, PhD, Professor Emeritus ; Stephen C. Barr, BVSc, MVS, PhD, DACVIM, Professor of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University ; J. P. Dubey, MVSc, PhD, Microbiologist, Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, USDA ; Paul Ettestad, DVM, MS, State Public Health Veterinarian, Epidemiology and Response Division, New Mexico Department of Health ; Kenneth R. Harkin, DVM, DACVIM, Associate Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University ; Delores E. Hill, PhD, Parasitologist, U.S. Department of Agriculture ; Johnny D. Hoskins, DVM, PhD, Small Animal Consultant ; Jodie Low Choy, BVSc, BVMS, IVAS Cert, Menzies School of Health Research; University Avenue Veterinary Hospital, Northern Territory, Australia ; Barton W. Rohrbach, VMD, MPH, DACVPM, Associate Professor, Department of Comparative Medicine, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, University of Tennessee ; J. Glenn Songer, PhD, Professor, Department of Veterinary Science and Microbiology, University of Arizona ; Joseph Taboada, DVM, DACVIM, Professor and Associate Dean, Office of Student and Academic Affairs, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University ; Charles O. Thoen, DVM, PhD, Professor, Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University ; John F. Timoney, MVB, PhD, Dsc, MRCVS, Keeneland Chair of Infectious Diseases, Gluck Equine Research Center, Department of Veterinary Science, University of Kentucky ; Ian Tizard, BVMS, PhD, DACVM, University Distinguished Professor of Immunology; Director, Richard M. Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center, Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University

Also see professional content regarding nocardiosis.

Nocardiosis is a chronic, noncontagious disease caused by the bacteria of the genus Nocardia. These bacteria are found commonly in soil, decaying vegetation, compost, and other environmental sources. They enter the body through contamination of wounds or by inhalation. Species in this genus are found in temperate regions, as well as in tropical and subtropical areas.

Poor appetite, fever, lethargy, and weight loss are common nonspecific signs associated with all infection sites. Infections in dogs are often localized, with lesions beneath the skin, mycetomas, and inflammation of one or more lymph nodes. There may be swelling and inflammation of the gums around the teeth and ulcers in the mouth accompanied by severe bad breath. Nocardiosis affecting the chest often involves pus-producing inflammation of the chest cavity or abdominal cavity. The heart, liver, kidneys, and brain may also be affected. Occasionally, young dogs have a form of disease that begins in the lower respiratory tract after inhalation of the organism and spreads throughout the body.

Your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics based on identification of the bacteria. Nocardial infections are resistant to some types of antibiotics. Treatment must often be continued for more than 3 months. It is important to continue treatment as directed to allow your pet the best possibility for recovery. The prognosis is guarded due to the long treatment time and the likelihood of relapse.