What Is Bartonellosis?
Bartonellosis is a disease caused by several bacteria of the Bartonella family. Bartonella organisms can cause bacterial infection in many species, including humans. Certain strains of Bartonella are known to infect cats. Bartonella organisms can be transmitted from a cat to a human via a bite or scratch, so bartonellosis in humans is commonly called cat-scratch disease.
Cats can become infected with Bartonella through exposure to infected fleas. For this reason, cats that roam outdoors are at greater risk for exposure. There is some evidence that ticks may also transmit the disease.
Some reports state that 12% to 50% or more of cats have been infected with Bartonella. The risk of exposure varies greatly depending on the region of the United States. Areas with warmer climates have a higher incidence of fleas and, therefore, a higher percentage of cats infected with Bartonella.
Signs of Bartonellosis
Many cats that have been exposed to Bartonella do not get sick and, therefore, do not show clinical signs of disease. However, these cats may still transmit the disease to humans. Clinically affected (sick) cats may have various clinical signs, including chronic inflammatory conditions that affect the eyes, mouth, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal system, and even the heart. More specific clinical signs may include:
Infected cats may show one or more of the signs listed above. It is very important to discuss these illnesses with your veterinarian because other diseases may also cause these signs.
Symptoms of bartonellosis in humans generally occur about 3 weeks after a cat scratch or bite and include fever and swollen lymph nodes along with a number of other possible symptoms. Consult with your physician regarding any concerns or questions about Bartonella infection.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your veterinarian may perform a blood test on your cat to check for Bartonella infection. The test indicates the presence of antibodies, which the body uses to fight specific infections. A positive test result means that your cat has been exposed to Bartonella. If your cat is showing signs of disease and has a positive test result, your veterinarian may recommend antibiotics to treat the disease. There is controversy about whether to treat cats that test positive for Bartonella but are not showing signs of illness. It is best to discuss treatment options with your veterinarian.
Regular application of flea and tick preventives, as recommended by your veterinarian, will help to prevent Bartonella infection.
To reduce risk of human infection from cats, keep your cat’s nails trimmed and do not tease or entice play that may result in a bite or scratch from your cat. If you have difficulty trimming your cat’s nails, take him or her to your veterinarian or a professional groomer for nail trimming.
What Is BUN?
BUN stands for blood urea nitrogen. The BUN level is a measurement that represents the level of urea in the blood. Urea is considered one of the body’s waste products. It is produced when the liver participates in protein metabolism, and it is usually eliminated from the body by the kidneys. Therefore, both the liver and kidneys must be functioning properly for the body to maintain a normal level of urea in the blood.
The BUN level is an important part of a blood test known as a chemistry panel, so it is often evaluated during routine wellness checkups or pre-surgery screening in healthy pets. Often, it is evaluated along with other blood tests that screen for abnormalities involving the kidneys or liver. Because various illnesses can affect the BUN level, your veterinarian may recommend testing your pet’s BUN level if your pet has any of the following signs of illness:
How Is the BUN Level Measured?
To test your pet’s BUN level, your veterinary team must obtain a small blood sample. This procedure is usually very quick; it may take only a few seconds if the patient is well behaved. For patients that are very frightened or not well behaved, your veterinary team may want to use a muzzle, towel, or other gentle restraint device. In some cases, such as in patients with very thick fur, it may be necessary to shave the hair from the area where blood will be drawn. The hair will grow back, and this is often a good way to find the vein quickly.
Some veterinary offices have in-house blood analysis equipment, so they can perform the BUN level test in the office and have results the same day. Other offices send blood samples to an outside laboratory for the test to be performed. If an outside laboratory is used, results are generally available within 1 to 2 days.
Be sure to tell your veterinarian about any medications or supplements your pet may be receiving, as some products can alter the BUN level in the blood.
What Does the BUN Level Tell Your Veterinarian?
Although changes in the BUN level are commonly associated with kidney disease or inadequate liver function, many other factors can affect the BUN level. Some antibiotics, for example, can cause this level to increase. Additionally, various medical conditions, such as dehydration or stomach bleeding, can affect the BUN level.
An abnormal BUN level (whether too low or too high) can indicate medical problems. The following are a few conditions that cause an abnormal BUN level:
If your pet has an abnormal BUN level, your veterinarian will combine that information with other vital information about your pet to decide if further diagnostic testing is recommended to investigate the abnormal result. Additional tests may include a urinalysis(a screening test to evaluate components in the urine), radiographs (“x-rays”), or additional blood testing. Depending on your pet’s overall condition, your veterinarian may recommend medications or other management.
Are There Risks Associated With Measuring the BUN Level?
Very few risks are associated with measuring the BUN level. Drawing blood takes only a few seconds, and your veterinary team will take precautions to ensure that your pet is not injured during this procedure. Once blood is obtained, all further processing is performed at the veterinarian’s office or at a diagnostic laboratory, so there is no risk of harm to your pet.
What Is Antifreeze Poisoning?
Most antifreeze solutions contain high levels of ethylene glycol, an ingredient that, once metabolized, is extremely toxic to dogs and cats. Pets are often attracted to the liquid because of its sweet taste. Even small amounts can be lethal to animals. A cat that walks through spilled antifreeze and then licks its paws may ingest enough to be fatal. As little as 2.5 tablespoons of antifreeze could kill a 20-pound dog.
Once ingested, ethylene glycol is quickly broken down in the liver to other substances that can lead to kidney failure and death within 12 hours to a few days. That’s why antifreeze ingestion is a medical emergency. If you suspect that your pet has consumed antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately.
What Are The Signs Of Antifreeze Poisoning?
The signs of antifreeze poisoning vary, depending on the amount of antifreeze the pet drank and length of time since ingestion. Initially, pets may stagger or walk like they are drunk. Other signs include:
As time progresses, signs may include:
How Is Antifreeze Poisoning Diagnosed?
Antifreeze poisoning is generally diagnosed based on the results of blood and urine tests. However, as kidney failure sets in, these tests may be less accurate. Free-roaming pets that have signs consistent with antifreeze ingestion should be treated as soon as possible.
How Is This Condition Treated?
To be effective, treatment needs to be initiated as soon as possible after antifreeze ingestion. If your pet is seen within an hour of consuming antifreeze, the veterinarian may induce vomiting and possibly anesthetize the animal to flush out the contents of the stomach. They may also administer a liquid solution of activated charcoal to help prevent further absorption of the ethylene glycol.
If it has been longer than an hour since ingestion, the veterinarian will most likely give your pet a medication to help prevent the liver from metabolizing the ethylene glycol. The pet may also be placed on intravenous fluids and other medications to encourage excretion of the toxic substances produced during metabolism of ethylene glycol.
Once kidney failure has begun, it may be difficult to save the animal because the damage from antifreeze is often irreversible.
How Can I Protect My Pet From Antifreeze Poisoning?
There are a number of steps you can take to prevent your pet from drinking antifreeze:
How Can I Make the Travel Experience Better for My Cat?
Our pets share so much of our lives that many of us don’t want to consider traveling without them. Whether you are flying, driving a car, or RVing, sharing a trip with a pet can add richness to the experience. Proper planning can make the travel experience better and less stressful for you and for your pet.
What Food and Medications Should I Bring When Traveling With My Cat?
There are many factors you can’t control when you are on the road, but changing your cat’s food can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or other problems that can be difficult to deal with while traveling. Some cats may even refuse to eat a different food; if this refusal goes on for a few days, it can quickly turn into a problem. You can help avoid this problem by bringing enough of your cat’s regular food for the duration of the trip. If your cat receives medication, bring enough for the trip and try to maintain your regular schedule.
If you are traveling by car or RV, set up a large cage or crate with your cat’s litterbox, food, and water; bringing your cat’s favorite bed, blanket, or toys can also help make the trip more relaxing and pleasant. If you are flying, you will need an airline-approved carrier for your cat; you should also request that your cat fly in a temperature-controlled cargo area.
Many people escape the snow by traveling with their pet to warmer climates. Although fleas and ticks may not be a problem during the winter where you live, your cat may be exposed to these parasites at your destination. Make sure you’re prepared by asking your veterinarian for appropriate flea and tick control products.
How Should I Plan for Travel With My Cat?
Spontaneity and family emergencies aside, most of us wouldn’t take a trip without planning some things ahead of time. The same thing applies when traveling with your cat:
Where to stay: Many hotels and rental properties allow pets. Locating proper accommodations ahead of time and being clear about fees (some places charge an extra fee for pets) can help minimize anxiety when you arrive.
Travel requirements: Most airlines require a health certificate for pets that will be flying. The health certificate generally states that the pet is in good health and free from any infectious or contagious diseases. Don’t assume this document can be obtained from your veterinarian on the way to the airport! Your cat may need a physical examination, fecal exam, or other procedures before your veterinarian can sign a health certificate. Also, the certificate must be obtained within a certain window of time before you travel. Find out from your airline what their requirements are and plan to get the health certificate ahead of time.
Some destinations (particularly island locations like England and Hawaii) may have quarantine regulations or rabies certification procedures. Clarify any of these requirements well in advance of your trip.
Medical care: Do you have a plan in case your cat gets sick while you are traveling? If possible, find a veterinarian at your destination; your own veterinarian may be able to make some recommendations. This is particularly important if your cat has an existing medical problem or is on medication.
Should I Sedate My Cat for Travel?
Giving a tranquilizer to a cat before traveling has pros and cons. Some would argue that if your cat is tranquilized, then he or she is not sharing the travel experience with you—so what is the point of bringing your pet along? Sedation can also have side effects, including lowering body temperature (which could be an issue if your pet is flying in the cargo area of a plane), and causing hypotension (low blood pressure). Others may argue that a little light sedation can calm a cat that is overly stressed or excited while traveling and can therefore make the trip more pleasant for everyone involved. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Some cats do very well with a light sedative, but remember that sedation does not address all travel issues. If your cat has severe motion sickness or gets extremely stressed while traveling, it may be better to arrange for a pet sitter or board him or her. Also, not every cat is a good candidate for a tranquilizer, so ask your veterinarian if sedation is a good idea for your cat.
If you have never given your cat a tranquilizer before, give a test dose ahead of your trip. Pick a day when you will be home with your pet for most of the day. That way, if the medication causes excessive sedation or other negative side effects, you will be there to intervene and call your veterinarian for help.
What Else Should I Know About Travelling With My Cat?
If you plan to travel with your pet, let your veterinarian know ahead of time. He or she may be able to advise you about parasite protection and other health considerations that may be different at your destination. If you decide to leave your cat at home, your veterinarian can likely recommend a good boarding facility or pet sitting service. Addressing any questions or concerns with your veterinarian ahead of time can save worry and stress while you are away.
Do Dogs and Cats Really Grieve?
Whether animals feel emotions in the same way people do is a mystery. However, their behaviors are commonly interpreted as reliable expressions of mood—for example, relaxed, fearful, or aggressive. Based on observed changes in behavior, it is thought that some dogs and cats grieve after losing a close human or animal companion. In 1996, the ASPCA conducted a study of mourning in companion animals and found that more than half of dogs and cats had at least four behavioral changes after losing an animal companion. Many of these changes, such as eating less and changes in sleep patterns, were similar to behaviors exhibited by grieving people.
If you have recently lost a pet and other pets in the household are acting differently, it is possible that they miss the deceased pet and are experiencing grief.
Signs of Grief
Like people, dogs and cats seem to show a wide variety of responses to losing a companion. Behavior changes observed in the 1996 ASPCA study included:
Again, as in people, signs of grief in pets usually improve with time. However, there are things you can do to help your pet through this difficult period. If your pet is eating less or is not eating, encourage him or her to eat by making food more appealing. For example, slightly warming canned food can make it smell better to pets. However, be very careful to not overheat food, which can burn your pet’s mouth. If your pet refuses to eat at all, call your veterinarian.
You'll Save Lives
While the estimates vary, approximately three to four million dogs and cats are euthanized (“put to sleep”) each year in the United States because too few people spay or neuter the pets they have, too few adopt their new pets, and too many give up their pets. Because space at shelters is limited, staff members must make the difficult decision to euthanize healthy animals that aren’t adopted within a certain amount of time.
The number of euthanized animals could be reduced greatly if more people adopted pets instead of buying them. By adopting from an animal shelter or rescue group, you'll help save the lives of two animals—the pet you adopt and a homeless animal that can be rescued because of space you make available.
You'll Get a Great Pet
Animal shelters and rescue groups have plenty of healthy, well-behaved animals waiting for a home. Most shelters examine and vaccinate animals when they arrive, and many shelters spay or neuter them before adoption. In addition to providing medical care, more and more shelters and rescue groups screen animals for specific temperaments (“personality” characteristics) and behaviors to match pets with prospective owners.
It is a common belief that animals end up in shelters because they were abused or behaved badly. In truth, most animals in shelters are there because of “people reasons”: divorce, moving, lack of time, and financial constraints are among the most common reasons why pets lose their homes. Adopted pets are just as loving, intelligent, and loyal as purchased pets.
You'll Save Money
Adopting a pet from an animal shelter is much less expensive than buying a pet at a pet store or through other sources. Buying a pet can easily cost $500 to $1000 or more; adoption costs range from $50 to $200. In addition, animals from many shelters are already spayed or neutered and vaccinated, which makes the shelter’s fee a bargain.
Although many shelters and rescue groups have purebred animals, an adopted mixed-breed pet may be healthier than a purebred pet (purebred pets are more likely to have genetic problems) and, therefore, cost less overall.
You Won’t Support Puppy or Kitten Mills
Puppy and kitten mills are factory-style breeding facilities that put profit above the welfare of animals. Most animals raised in these mills are housed in poor conditions with improper medical care. They are often in poor health and have ongoing behavior and health problems due to lack of human companionship and inbreeding. Mill animals are sold to unsuspecting consumers in pet stores, over the Internet, and through newspaper classified advertisements.
By adopting instead of buying a pet, you can be certain that you aren't supporting puppy or kitten mills.
You Can Choose a Pet of Any Age
Although puppies and kittens are cute, they can require a lot of work to train. An adult or older pet that is already trained may be a better fit for your lifestyle. For example, adopting an adult dog that is already housetrained and knows basic commands is often much easier than adopting a puppy.
You’re Likely to Have a Support System
Most pet stores don’t provide any support if you have questions or problems with your new pet. However, rescue groups do provide support for new owners because keeping pets in good homes is in the best interest of these groups.
Search for adoptable pets on Web sites like Petfinder.com and theshelterpetproject.org or contact your local shelter for adoptable pets in your area.
Dr. Carlson is an avid contributor to her blog, make sure you check out her articles!