Retrospective study of 46 cases of feline haemobartonellosis in Israel and their relationships with FeLV and FIV infections

Study of cats with feline infectious anaemia

source: S. Harrus et al
Veterinary Record vol 151 no 3, July 20 2002
starts p82, 4 pages long

Feline haemobartonellosis is also called feline infectious anaemia. It is thought to be the main cause of feline haemolytic anaemia, and is caused by Haemobartonella felis, which may be mycoplasmal, though it was first thought of as rickettsial. There are large and small forms of H felis, and the organism may be transmitted by fleas. This study describes 46 cases, and compares cats which also suffered from feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukamia (FeLV) with cats that did not have these additional infections.

The sample comprised 23 intact males, 9 castrated males, 11 intact females and 3 spayed females. Free roaming cats accounted for 85% of the sample, or 39 cats, and seven were indoor cats. Their ages ranged from two months to 12 years, though 75% were 2.5 years or younger. 34 cats were tested for FeLV, with 13 positive, and 37 were tested for FIV with eight positive, while two were positive for both FeLV and FIV. This study found that younger cats, and intact males are more likely to suffer from feline haemobartonellosis, which fits with previous research.

The main clinical signs were lethargy, tachypnoea, depression, anorexia, emaciation, dehydration, splenomegaly, icterus, pale mucus membranes, and flea infestations. Tachypnoea has not been discussed in most reports of previous research on H Felis, but was found in 73% of these cats. The main haematological findings were anaemia and leucocytosis. Key biochemical abnormalities found were that activites of aspartate aminotransferase (AST) alanine aminotransferase (ALT) were high for most of the cats tested for this. This could be linked to hepatic hypoxia as a result of anaemia. Some
of the cats found to be anorexic (65%) may have suffered from hepatic lipidosis, accounting for the high activity levels.

There were significantly lower body temperatures in cats suffering from both FeLV and H felis infections, possibly because of circulatory collapse and acidosis from compromised blood perfusion. There have been reported of fever resulting from co-infections, but cats in this study may have been at more advanced stages of illness, with temperatures dropping when they were moribund. Anaemia was also more serious in cats with both infections. FIV infected cats did not show significant differences from cats without co-infections.