As National Pet Dental Month rapidly draws to a close, let’s take a moment to discuss a case involving extensive oral disease (also known as gingivitis/stomatitis complex) in a cat caused by Bartonella.

Sylvester is a 6 year-old neutered male cat that was lovingly adopted by one of our clients in September 2011. He had been at a shelter for over a year and had a severe case of gingivitis/stomatitis (inflammation of gums and entire oral cavity) requiring high doses of steroids twice daily to control his pain and allow him to continue to eat. The owners brought him to our clinic shortly after they adopted him for a complete oral exam and resolution of his oral disease. Because he had been a stray cat prior to his time in the shelter and likely exposed to fleas, he was at high risk for infection with Feline Bartonella.

sylvester-031012-blog-300x225Feline Bartonella is caused by one of at least 6 different species of bacteria and most frequently transmitted to cats by fleas and ticks, but can also be transmitted through scratches and bite wounds. Bartonella is commonly known as “Cat Scratch Fever”. Although many cats are symptom-free carriers (meaning they never show any clinical signs of the disease) other cats, like Sylvester, can be severely affected. Some cats who have severe gingivitis/stomatitis complex are not infected with Bartonella and many of those cats require extensive dental extractions to manage their pain. We were hopeful that would not be the case for Sylvester.

The test we use to detect Bartonella only requires a few drops of blood and the results are usually available to us in 10 days. Sylvester’s test results were 4+ VERY STRONG POSITIVE, the highest level of infection. We immediately began a 3 week course of powerful antibiotics designed to kill the bacteria. After the antibiotics started killing the bacteria, we began weaning his dose of steroids. Six months after the initial therapy, we retested him and found that the infection had not been cleared completely. We prescribed an additional 3 week course of antibiotics. Sylvester was kind enough to allow us to take pictures while he underwent treatment. You can see (the areas circled in yellow above) the substantial irritation and inflammation that still remained after the first treatment.

Six months after the second course of antibiotics, however, the results were significantly better. As you can see, the inflammation and irritation improved greatly.

sylvester-102012-blog-300x225We are pleased to report that as of a few weeks ago, Sylvester is doing terrific and now only needs a very small amount of steroids twice a week to be a happy cat .

Important Points for Cat Owners:
  1. Up to 33% of cats living in our region of the United States are positive for Bartonella.
  2. Symptoms of Bartonella, when present, mimic all other oral diseases in cats.
  3. The most common findings are gingivitis and stomatitis.
  4. This organism is a zoonotic disease (meaning humans can become infected from infected cats). It is called “Cat-Scratch Disease” in humans.

See this Bartonella Brochure for further information.

If you suspect your cat has gingivitis/stomatits or may be infected with Bartonella, please call Midlothian Animal Clinic to schedule an appointment.