10 August 2021

Blog thumbnail

How Bartonellosis Affects Your Cat and You

Bartonellosis infections may affect both your cat’s and your health because it is zoonotic, so you can catch it from your cat. However, you can reduce your chances of both you and your cat getting infected. Here is more about how bartonellosis impacts cats and humans, its symptoms and what you can do to reduce problems.

Overview of bartonellosis

Bartonellosis is a term used to describe several illnesses caused by Bartonella bacteria. In cats, the most common is Bartonella henselae. Dogs also suffer from bartonellosis but from a different type. Though this bacteria has been in the Queensland area for some time, infections are rare. A common name for bartonellosis is cat scratch fever because of the connection between scratches and the disease.

Transmission of bartonellosis

Even though an infection is called cat scratch fever, the most common form of transmission is flea bites. However, your cat can transmit the bacteria through the claws and saliva as well. Stray cats are more susceptible to bartonellosis because they live in environments with no flea control. Younger cats are more likely to pass on the bacteria partly because they tend to bite and scratch more during play.

Your cat may transfer the bacteria to you through infected fleas even if he or she doesn’t show symptoms. If the bacteria infect your cat, you could get infected if the flea bites you after feeding on your cat. However, your cat can also transmit the bacteria through scratches and bites. Kittens are more likely to transmit the bacteria the latter way, especially during rough play.

Symptoms of bartonellosis

The good news for your cat is that bartonellosis probably won’t make them feel too sick. Most cats don’t show any symptoms beyond a mild fever. The disease often resolves on its own without treatment. However, a few cats can get sick from the bacteria and may need to see a veterinarian. Visible symptoms of an infected cat include:

  • Lethargy
  • Swollen eyes (uveitis)
  • Gum issues
  • Digestive issues (vomiting and diarrhoea)

Human infections in otherwise healthy people are also fairly mild. You may get pain and a swollen lymph node near where the infection entered the body. The symptoms can go away on their own, but you may want to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Most people develop some immunity to the bacteria after the infection clears itself. Immunocompromised people may have more serious issues. Their immune system could have trouble clearing the bacteria.

Treatment of bartonellosis

Testing and treatment for bartonellosis are important if you or your cat have immune system issues and you suspect an infection. Treatment for your cat can be difficult and usually reserved for serious situations. Antibiotics exist that do well against the bacteria, but some studies suggest they don’t completely rid the body of the bacteria. To reduce antibiotic-resistant strains of Bartonella, veterinarians may reserve antibiotics for worst-case scenarios.

Prevention of bartonellosis

No vaccines or medications exist to prevent bartonellosis infections in either cats or humans. However, you, as a pet owner, can reduce the risks. Keep your cat inside and away from stray cats. Make sure you control the fleas in your home.

Don’t play rough with your cat, especially young ones. Keep your cat’s nails trimmed to reduce the chance of scratches. Be especially careful if you have immune system problems. Wash any scratches and bites with soap and water right away.

Since stray cats are more likely to get bartonellosis, exercise caution in any interaction with them. If you adopt from a shelter, make sure you check in with your vet for a follow-up examination. Arundel Veterinary Surgery can give your cat a checkup and answer any questions you might have about your pet’s health and infections like bartonellosis. Call us and set up an appointment for your cat as soon as possible.