How to Tell if Your Cat has Bartonella Infection

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How to Tell if Your Cat has Bartonella Infection

Bartonella Infection aka “Cat Scratch Fever” can cause severe health risks for your cat and you.  I promise you this is a disease you do not want for you or your furry feline friend.  Bartonella henselae is a zoonotic disease which means it can transfer from animal to human.

This nasty infection almost took the life of two of my lovable kitties, gave me several doctor visits, and racked up nearly $5,000 in veterinary and medical bills. Up to 50% of Cats can carry Bartonella.  Some felines may carry this disease yet not show symptoms. 

How do you know if your kitty has Bartonella? 

If your cat starts showing the following symptoms get them tested immediately. 

Symptoms of Bartonella Infection:

  • Respiratory Ailments-Weepy Eyes, Sneezing, Nasal Congestion
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Gingivitis
  • Stomatitis
  • Uveitis
  • Swollen Lymph nodes
  • IBS or Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Skin Disease

You want to be sure to catch Bartonella quickly.  It is a Co-Infection Lyme Disease that can cause serious health problems.  There is no cure for it but catching and treating it immediately can possibly prevent many additional issues from progressing.  If left untreated this infection can cause widespread health ailments.

Bartonella Symptoms Breakdown

Cats tend to sleep a lot, but if you notice your cat more sluggish than average, it can indicate they are fighting off an infection.  The symptoms may seem like a cold such as sneezing, nasal congestions, and wheezing but will eventually cause worse issues. 

A fever is another red flag; something is wrong.  A cat’s average body temperature runs between 100.5-102.5 degrees.  They are warmer to the touch than we are so without checking their temperature it will be hard for you to tell if they are running a fever.

Gingivitis can be an early symptom of Bartonella.  This is a periodontal disease that causes inflammation of the gums and tartar build-up on the teeth.  The gums facing the side of the cheeks will be red and swollen.   

If it develops into Stomatitis, it can cause ulcers on the gums, throat, lips, and tongue. It can be painful enough to make your cat stop eating.  Other signs may include drooling, unkept fur, weight loss, and bad breath.  In some cases, it may be so severe that the teeth are removed to prevent the bacteria from attaching to the teeth that may be abscessed. 

Uveitis is a noticeable symptom of the eyes; it can cause pain, discharge, swelling, and cloudiness of the eyes.  It may cause a decrease in vision also.  Due to the infection, you may be able to feel your cat’s lymph nodes on their neck due to swelling.  

Skin Diseases such as Dermatitis and Papules can set in.  Some kitties are allergic to flea bites more than others, and this can cause severe itching. You may notice scabbing from obsessive grooming.  Another issue is an upset stomach, and this can be a sign of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Their belly might even look distended due to constipation.  Other symptoms of I.B.S. are diarrhea, vomiting, or a tender tummy.

If you notice any or all of these symptoms in your cat be sure to contact your veterinarian immediately to prevent further complications.   

Bartonella Diagnosis & Treatment

Bartonella tests can take up to five days before getting the result.  It can be difficult to test an “active” infection and may take multiple tests such as cultures, antibody levels, serological, and polymerase chain reaction.  In some cases, it may be best to rule out other possibilities with additional lab-work and ultrasounds.  The lab results may indicate high bilirubin levels which means problems with the liver.

Bilirubin is a substance that forms when red blood cells break down and run through the liver, gall bladder, and digestive tract before excreting. Your cat can have jaundice, and further testing is often advised to ensure there are no underlying complications with the liver.

Your cat may have quit eating and drinking, and this is very dangerous especially if your beloved kitty is a little on the heavy side.  If they do not have sufficient nutrition, their liver will start to go into Fatty Liver Disease.  To reverse this may require a feeding tube to be inserted.  However, I was advised to syringe feed and water my cat.  Within two days he had significant improvement.    

If your cat tests positive for Bartonella, they will prescribe a long duration of 4-6 weeks of antibiotics.  The antibiotics commonly used to reduce Bartonella are Doxycycline, Enrofloxacin, Rifampin, and Amoxicillin. 

Trying to give your cat medication can be difficult.  The vet should be able to supply you with a soft-tipped pill popper, or you can pick one up at your local pet store.  View this video How to give your cat a pill using a popper to make it less stressful for you and your kitty.

Just like us, your cat needs time to recover.  They will need lots of rest in a stress-free environment.  You can do this by keeping them in a separate room until they improve. 

Where does Bartonella come from?

Bartonella has been infecting mammals for thousands of years.  It is a “gram negative” (meaning it has a double cell wall) slow growing bacteria. It is carried by ticks, body lice, fleas, and mosquitos.  Flea & Tick prevention in your kitties is of utmost importance.  It will significantly reduce the risk of exposure, at least from these pesky pests. 

You need to be careful when adopting a new furry friend.  I brought in an outdoor cat, and my indoor cats contracted the infection from him.  This disease is very contagious despite what some may tell you. I contracted Cat Scratch Fever without getting scratched.  It was either the loving kisses and touching my eyes; or from the few flea bites that hitch-hiked off of my new furry friend.

Can my cat relapse?

There is a chance your cat may relapse from this infection.  Antibiotics treat this, but there is not a cure for this disease yet.  Bartonella is a gram-negative bacteria, so it is harder to rid permanently.  Try to keep your cat from stressful situations such as adding new pets, at least for a while.  If possible, keep your cat indoors to prevent flea & tick encounters and infestations.  Plus, if they are inside you can see if there are any signs of relapse.      

Is there a natural way to help treat Bartonella?

If you’re interested in helping to boost your cat’s immune system and treat Bartonella naturally there are some products available.  Always discuss these options with your veterinarian before trying them with your kitty.

  • Better Diet & Food
  • Multi-Vitamin
  • CBD Oil that is made for cats only-First ask your Veterinarian advice on dosage, drug interactions, and reputable places to purchase.
  • Exercise

Applying natural treatments to your felines daily routine can possibly improve their health and quality of life.

What if I contract Bartonella?


To reduce the risk of contracting Bartonella be sure to wash your hands after petting an unfamiliar cat.  Do your best not to get scratched or bitten and pay attention to any bug bites on your body. 

A primary symptom of infection is swollen lymph nodes in areas such as the armpits, neck, and maybe the groin.  You may experience fatigue, muscle aches, and a low-grade fever.  Be sure to tell your doctor if you have recently been exposed to an infected cat, or have noticed tick or flea bites on your body.

Some people do not require antibiotics but if your immune system is compromised or your symptoms persist it may need antibiotic treatment.

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