Bartonella Can Affect Dogs and Be Transmitted to Humans

Bartonellosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria in dogs. The bacteria that causes the disease, bartonella, can infect humans and cats as well. In humans, the infection has been known as cat scratch disease, though the infection is rarely transmitted through either cat bite or scratch.

Dogs pick up bartonella bacteria through contact with lice, ticks, fleas, and even sand fleas. Hunting dogs and working dogs that come in contact with livestock and or wild animals are at greater risk for contracting bartonella than dogs that spend the majority of their time indoors or in the city, for obvious reasons.

Bartonella Infection in Dogs

Symptoms of Bartonella Infection in Dogs and Humans

Bartonella infection is a zoonotic disease and can be transmitted between dogs, cats, and human beings. Interestingly, the symptoms of bartonella infection, or bartonellosis, are very similar in humans and dogs and may include the following:

  • A red bump at the site of insect bite or scratch
  • Nausea
  • Altered brain function and seizures
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Swollen or painful lymph nodes, especially near the site of infection
  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills or visible shivering
  • Vomiting and Diarrhea
  • Inflammation of the eye or pink eye

Dogs may also present additional symptoms once examined by a vet, including:

  • Enlarged liver or spleen
  • Lameness
  • Inflammation of the heart
  • Arthritis
  • Inflammation of the brain

The majority of cats that are infected, however, are typically asymptomatic.

Diagnosis of Bartonella Infection and Bartonellosis

In humans, the disease is typically caused by a dog bite from an infected dog. If the symptoms above present following a dog bite, then be sure to see a physician immediately.

Diagnosis in dogs is accomplished through a complete physical examination by a veterinarian, which is typically followed with a urinalysis and a blood chemistry profile, and then tests to determine the presence of the bacteria. Many signs may present themselves either through the physical itself, or through the blood or liver screens that point toward bartonella infection as the cause of symptoms.

Treatment of Bartonellosis and Bartonella Infection

Treatment for humans affected by bartonella infection typically involves a thorough cleaning of the site of infection, whether scratch or bite, and a course of antibiotics. Likewise, bartonellosis in dogs is treated through a course of antibiotics specifically designed to wipe out the bacteria (doxycycline or azithromycin possibly with rifampin, clarithromycin, or a newer fluoroquinolone antibiotic.

Dogs that are at risk of infection should be placed on an ongoing flea and tick preventive regimen of medication, as well.

Protecting Your Pets, Yourself, and Others From Bartonella

Bartonella is a common bacteria that your dog(s) may be exposed to on a fairly regular basis. Protection from bartonella infection typically comes down to adhering to a flea and tick prevention program that involves regular medication, as well as screening for parasites directly on the animal.

That said, every flea or tick found on a pet is not worth a trip to the veterinarian, provided that your animals are on a preventive regimen of anti flea and tick medication, are in good health, and are not showing any of the symptoms listed above.


Author: Giano Panzarella