Bartonellosis: An Emerging Disease You Should Know About

Pet Dog Husky scratching

Bartonellosis, also known as the ‘cat scratch disease,’ is currently under study to better understand its potential to damage the health of both humans and animals.

Among the new findings about the Bartonella bacteria:

  • It can cause illness in people and dogs
  • In the last 20 years, over two dozen new strains of the pathogen have been identified
  • It is not a self-limiting disease, meaning it does not always run its course without medical intervention
  • The disease affects not only immunocompromised people, but also people with healthy immune systems

According to Dr. Edward Breitschwerdt, of North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine:

"Going from not knowing a genus of bacteria existed in the 90s to now realizing that cats, dogs, cows, deer, squirrels, voles, moles and kangaroos in Australia are all running around with their own Bartonella species in their blood changes the dynamics of the human-animal bond.

And it creates some caution that we didn't have to worry about five years or 10 years ago when we didn't know this information."

Dr. Breitschwerdt wants veterinarians, their staffs, and others who regularly handle animals to increase their awareness of the health risks of Bartonella bacteria – especially since most physicians are unaware of the latest findings.

Bartonellosis can be as debilitating and difficult to diagnose as Lyme disease, and has in fact been misdiagnosed as Lyme disease by some physicians.