Bartonella or feline bartonellosis is a disease transmitted by fleas and ticks that cats can contract more easily than we think. Cats often show no symptoms in the early stages of this disease, so it’s important to ask your trusted vet to examine the animal and run tests if you have the slightest suspicion after reading this article. If your cat is exclusively an indoor animal, its chances of developing bartonella or cat scratch disease (as it’s often called a nickname) are low, but you still need to consider the risks.
How is feline bartonellosis transmitted?
Bartonella is caused by a bacteria found in the feces of ticks and fleas. If you live in a hot and humid climate, your pet may be at greater risk of contracting it. Cats contract bartonella mainly when flea feces are present on their fur or skin and lick themselves by ingesting bacteria from them.
The same bacteria can also be transmitted through ticks. It’s easy to bring these little bloodsuckers into your home if you live near a wooded area or if you have a dog that loves to move through bushes and tall grass. If humans or other animals unknowingly bring ticks home, even an indoor cat could be at risk of contracting the disease.
It is the job of pet owners to check them regularly for signs of fleas, flea bites, and ticks. Even with constant checks, you may not find the fleas, so be careful of excessive scratches or bites. Since many cats that contract this disease will show no symptoms for weeks or even months, it’s important to ask your vet for a blood test to determine if your pet needs treatment.
If your cat is in and out of the house regularly, it may be a good idea for the vet to perform the blood test as a precaution, even if your cat appears to be perfectly healthy.
What are the symptoms?
Cats can carry bacteria in their systems for months without any symptoms, so if your pet begins to show signs like swollen glands, lethargy, or muscle pain, you should definitely take her to the vet. Most cats are treated with antibiotics, return for a follow-up test a few months later, and have no further problems. Fortunately, bartonella is not a deadly disease, but it is still a disease that pet owners should know and prevent.
Can people get cat scratch fever?
The name bartonella felina may lead you to believe that only cats can get it, but the rest of the family is also vulnerable to infection. Unfortunately, bartonella is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be transmitted from cats to humans by scratching, biting, or stroking. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that immunocompromised people, such as young children or the elderly, avoid playing with cats that are too young, because they are more likely to contract the disease. All cats can carry the feline bartonella bacteria, so if someone living in your home has a sensitive immune system, they should be careful with possibly infected cats.
If a cat scratches or bites someone at home, be sure to wash the area right away and keep it clean. If a cat scratch turns red and excessively swollen, seek medical attention.
But this is not all, since this disease can also be transmitted without biting or scratching. If you or someone in your home has any of these symptoms, they should talk to their doctor and consider getting tested for feline bartonellosis:
- Poor appetite
- Swollen glands or “stretch marks” on the skin.
It is not necessary to suffer all these symptoms to think that you have had the disease, but if you feel several of them it is best to go to the doctor. If your test shows a positive result, the good news is that this disease is not usually dangerous for humans, but it may require treatment with antibiotics.
Another thing to remember is that if your cat has tested positive for feline bartonella (and does not bite or scratch you), it is important to wash your hands and be careful to pet your cat until it is completely free of infection.
How to care for a sick cat with Bartonellosis?
If your cat tests positive for feline bartonella and needs to take antibiotics, giving medication and dealing with a somewhat irritated kitten may become a difficult situation at home. Here are some tips to help make the treatment process as smooth and effective as possible:
- If your cat is taking antibiotics in pill form, you can give each pill a prize. If your vet allows it, you can even crush it in a pinch of wet food to make a tasty meatball.
- Choose a time of day that your cat is generally quieter and quieter to administer the medication.
- Make it easier, whenever possible, for your cat to have a room or space to get away, away from children and other pets, until he feels better.
- Find time to pay attention and pamper yourself. If you are looking for love, just pet it, but always remember to wash your hands afterwards.
- Be patient with your cat and realize that her bad mood and discomfort is only temporary.
- When your cat is done with the medications and regains some energy, reward him with more play and attention to strengthen your bond again.
Bartonellosis can cause some problems for you and your pet, but it is a disease that can be quickly identified with a blood test, and most treatments only take two to three weeks to clear up the disease.