Hemobartonellosis in Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Hemobartonellosis is a fairly common disease for the cat family.The causative agent of infection is Haemobartonella felis, this type of Rickettsia quickly dies outside the cells of organisms, is carried by arthropods, but the main host is still warm-blooded vertebrates, in particular, cats.

The danger lies in the hidden course of infection: most animals are infected with hemobartonella and remain carriers for many years, no clinical manifestations are observed. And only about 25% of animals have severe symptoms of the disease.

Ways of infection:

  • injuries, bites inflicted by cats to each other during fights;
  • arthropod bites (ticks, fleas);
  • when transfusing infected blood to a healthy animal;
  • during pregnancy, childbirth, and milk feeding.

Animals up to three years old are more likely to get sick, and males are more susceptible to the active form of the disease. The risk group consists of weakened cats, which is caused by concomitant diseases, poor conditions, pregnancy, childbirth. The disease worsens in autumn and spring. In the autumn months, approximately 40% more infections are detected than in the spring months.

The mechanism of development of hemobartonella

Hemobartonella affects red blood cells, as a result, the cells are destroyed by their own macrophages. Further, phagocytes begin to neutralize not only parasitic cells, but also “clean”, healthy red blood cells, which provokes the development of anemia.

The main symptoms:

Often hemobartonellosis is asymptomatic, only mild anemia is expressed. Less often, the disease manifests itself as a serious condition, including sudden weight loss, General weakness, exhaustion, and dehydration. The result may even be death.

Manifestations of hemobartonellosis:

  • a steady increase in temperature;
  • jaundice;
  • shortness of breath;
  • tachycardia;
  • loss of appetite;
  • “strange” taste preferences (garbage, sand);
  • pallor of the mucous membranes, skin;
  • rapid fatigue, lethargy.

Diagnosis of infection

The incubation period of hemobartonellosis lasts 20 days or less. All symptoms are not specific and are often mild or absent. This makes it difficult to diagnose. The difficulty of making a diagnosis is also caused by the fact that often infectious anemia, along with the General depletion of the body’s systems, is joined by other diseases, which leads to a false diagnosis.

Also, anemia can develop as a symptom of a fairly large list of various diseases. Another obstacle is that hemobartonella is not always detected when examining samples. Microorganisms can detach from the walls of red blood cells during blood storage until the cells are directly analyzed for the presence of the parasite.

In cases of carrier of hemobartonellosis in cats, the disease sometimes enters an active form. This can occur as a result of stress: vaccination, childbirth, viral infections.


General recommendations for cats with hemobartonellosis include a special diet with the maximum content of trace elements, vitamins, and placing the animal in a bright, warm room.

Treatment with antibiotics must be carried out under the supervision of a veterinarian. As a rule, the course of therapy lasts from two to three weeks. If you have severe anemia, you may need a blood transfusion. The disease lasts for one or two months. With a visible cure, there may be a recurrence of the disease, often this happens if the hemobartonellosis passes into the carrier stage and the animal is ill for years.

Infection prevention

Measures that can be taken by the owner in relation to the animal to avoid infection with hemobartonella:

  • complete pet feeding;
  • the exception of meetings with the stray cats;
  • careful observance of hygienic norms of the maintenance of cats.

An effective remedy for the spread of hemobartonellosis is the destruction of fleas, ticks in the basements of houses, on the territory of the site and other habitats of parasites. Pets are less likely to get infected, and restricting walking reduces the risks.

It is important to start treatment of an animal without adequate medical therapy, about a quarter of the animals killed. Treatment also has a positive effect on the pet’s health, leading to recovery.

A sick animal does not require isolation from people, since hemobartonella does not parasitize in human blood.