Bartonellosis is a bacterial disease in pets which can also affect humans. It is caused by a bacteria known as Bartonella and is sometimes called Cat Scratch Disease, although not always transmitted that way.
Infection in cats is very common, particularly those that live outdoors. It’s uncommon in cats that are kept indoors all the time. Although it is believed 40% of cats are infected at some point in their lives, they may not show any clinical signs for a long time, but are carriers.
While it is a zoonotic disease, transmittable from animals to humans, it is not fatal for humans. The greatest risk is for people whose immune systems are compromised. Bartonellosis is more commonly seen in children and young adults.
Some symptoms that present in dogs may be swelling and inflammation of lymph nodes, inflammation of the heart muscle, vomiting, diarrhea, inflammation of eyes, nose and brain, cough, fever, seizures.
Symptoms in cats can be fever, enlarged lymph nodes, eye inflammation, muscle pain, mouth infections.
Diagnosis by your veterinarian includes blood tests, urinalysis and possibly a sample taken from the site of the scratch or bite for laboratory testing.
Bartonellosis is treated with a variety of antibiotics but there is no protocol established at present. Cats respond well to antibiotic treatment although the disease may remain in the cats’ system for several months. Dogs should be checked regularly for any recurrence of the disease.
The best method of prevention is to protect your pet from exposure to these parasites, using whatever works for you. Cats’ claws can be kept short to avoid scratches. Children should be carefully supervised when playing with a cat or kitten. If you’ve been bitten or scratched, scrub the area well using a 3% hydrogen peroxide wash.
Since bartonellosis appears to be on the rise, it might be a good idea to have a new pet tested.
Always consult with your veterinarian for any diagnosis and treatment.