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Symptoms of Feline Bartonellosis Infection

Source: PetWave, Updated on December 22, 2015
Bartonellosis Infection (Cat Scratch Fever) Guide:

Effects of Bartonellosis on Cats – From the Cat’s Point of View

Feline bartonellosis, which involves infection with a genus of bacteria called Bartonella, can cause a variety of symptoms, although most affected cats don’t actually develop observable signs of being sick. In many cases, the disease is confused with some disorder of the cat’s immune system – these are called “immune-mediated diseases.” Those cats that do get sick from this disease typically develop vague symptoms which mimic those of other non-specific disorders. Kittens under one year of age, older cats and cats with weak or suppressed immune systems are the most likely to become ill from Bartonella infection. When symptoms do develop, this disease usually affects multiple bodily systems, with inflammation being the most consistent and widespread problem. Some areas of a cat’s body that can be affected by bartonellosis include the respiratory system, digestive system, neurological system and cardiovascular system, as well as the mouth, skin and especially the lymph nodes. The cat’s mouth and gastrointestinal lining may become swollen and inflamed, and it may experience breathing difficulties such as shortness of breath and labored breathing. Still, most cats infected with Bartonella won’t show any signs of being sick, and their owners probably will never know that they have these bacteria circulating in their bloodstream.

Symptoms of Bartonellosis in Cats – What the Owner Sees

Bartonella organisms tend to invade red blood cells and some other cells. While most cats are asymptomatic, which means that they don’t show outward symptoms of illness, when symptoms do occur they typically show up in more than one area of the cat’s body. This can happen suddenly, slowly or sporadically. Owners of cats with clinical feline bartonellosis disease may notice one or more of the following coming on all at once, showing up gradually or waxing and waning over time:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy; extremely common in cats that are sick from bartonellosis; the veterinarian will need to rule out lymphoma/lymphosarcoma as a cause of this condition)
  • Gingivitis (inflammation, swelling, redness, pain and bleeding of the gums)
  • Ulcers (sores) in the mouth; sloughing of necrotic or dying inflammatory oral tissue
  • Stomatitis (inflammation of the mucosal lining of the mouth)
  • Diarrhea (usually chronic; may be intermittent)
  • Vomiting (usually chronic; may be intermittent)
  • Lack of appetite (inappetance; anorexia; refusal to eat normally)
  • Weight loss
  • Sinusitis (inflammation of the nasal sinus passageways)
  • Rhinitis (inflammation of the mucosal lining of the nose)
  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnea); shortness of breath; labored breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Reproductive difficulties; infertility
  • Fever
  • Swollen, weepy eyes
  • Eye infections
  • Conjunctivitis (inflamed conjunctiva; eye redness)
  • Hepatitis (inflammation of the liver)
  • Heart murmurs
  • Endocarditis (uncommon in cats)

Once symptoms of feline bartonellosis appear, they may slowly worsen or suddenly get worse within a matter of days to weeks, depending on how the cat’s immune system and organs respond to the infectious Bartonella organisms.

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Disorders Similar to Bartonellosis Infection (Cat Scratch Fever)

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