Bartonellosis in Dogs
Definition of Bartonellosis
Bartonellosis is an emerging infectious disease of domestic and wild mammals, including people. It is caused by subspecies of Bartonella bacteria, each of which are adapted to different reservoir hosts. In the United States, coyotes are one of the primary host reservoirs. Fleas, ticks, lice and flies are common transferors, called vectors, of Bartonella between animals. When a vector feeds on an infected host’s blood, it also becomes infected. When it then bites a dog, the bacteria enter the dog’s blood through the vector’s saliva. Bartonella invade, reproduce inside and eventually destroy the dog’s red blood cells (RBCs). This causes their contents to spill into circulation and decreases the critical delivery of oxygen. Dogs with bartonellosis become weak, depressed and lethargic, lose their appetite and drop weight. More serious symptoms can develop, up to collapse and sudden death. Some infected dogs never show clinical signs.
Bartonellosis is caused by bacteria of the genus Bartonella. Domestic dogs reportedly can become infected by up to 5 currently recognized Bartonella species: B. vinsonii subspecies berkhoffi, B. henselae, B. clarridgeiae, B. elizabethae and B. washoensis. The primary vectors of the bacteria that infect dogs are fleas and several species of ticks, including Rhipicephalus sanguineus, Dermacentor species and Ixodes species. “Vectors” are carriers that transfer infectious agents from one host to another. In the United
Dogs infected with one of the Bartonella bacterial subspecies may develop one or more of the following symptoms:Many dogs infected with Bartonella show few or even no clinical signs.Herding and hunting breeds reportedly have an increased risk of developing bartonellosis. Small and toy breeds have a reduced chance of developing clinical disease from this infection. These correlations are thought to be related more to environmental factors than to true breed predispositions. Dogs with weakened immune
Dogs suffering from bartonellosis may have abnormally low levels of circulating red blood cells (RBCs) and platelets (referred to as “anemia” and “thrombocytopenia”). They also may have abnormally high levels of various white blood cells in their blood streams (referred to as “leukocytosis”). Routine blood work may reflect elevated liver enzymes and low levels of circulating albumin. Urinalysis of infected dogs tends to be inconsistent or unremarkable.Advanced testing may include immunofluorescence assays (IFAs), which are
There is no current consensus among veterinary professionals regarding the best or most appropriate treatment protocol for dogs that are diagnosed with bartonellosis and are showing clinical signs of disease. The goals of treatment are to resolve any observable symptoms, relieve discomfort associated with the infection and, hopefully, eliminate the infective organisms from the dog’s system.Dogs that test positive for Bartonella - and that have compatible symptoms of clinical illness for which other possible causes