Haemobartonellosis is also referred to as feline contagious anaemia or feline hemotropic mycoplasmosis. It is a tick-borne (and sometimes flea-borne) disease. Haemobartonellosis targets the RBCs which are responsible for transporting oxygen.
The seriousness of the disease caused by M. Haemofelis differs, with some cats having mild anemia with no clinical symptoms, and some with extreme depression and anemia leading to death. Most common clinical signs are:
- Pale mucous membranes
- Weight loss
Diagnosis of this disease can be as easy as monitoring clinical signs and detecting bacteria on a blood smear. In certain cases, this can be more difficult, since the observation of bacteria does not indicate that they are the cause of the disease, and not all cats with clinical illness have visible bacteria. More advanced diagnostic techniques include Polymerase Chain Reaction testing, which can detect very small quantities of bacteria, but is usually more costly and must be conducted at the reference laboratory. In addition, you may also use the Vetscan flex4 rapid test to help you determine this disease as well as other tick-borne diseases.
Since the methods of transmission of feline haemoplasma are not well known, advice on the prevention of infection is difficult. However, given the established risk factors for infection, it is necessary to take steps to avoid flea infestation and minimize inter-cat hostility by neutering them. Infected cats must not to be used as blood donors.
Your veterinarian can prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic for the treatment of M. haemofelis infections. In certain cases, a relapse may occur after an initial successful response to antibiotic therapy. In addition, the organism can persist in antibiotic-protected sites. It is vital to give your cat a full course of antibiotics, as antibiotics may not clear the organism if full treatment is not provided. Each antibiotic has its own risk of side effects, which your veterinarian will discuss with you.
If any other disease is present, it must be treated as well. If an immunosuppressive disorder is suspected, immunosuppressive medications such as corticosteroids could be used. If anaemia is very serious, a blood transfusion may be needed.