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Infectious Anemia in Cats (FIA)

General Information

Feline infectious anemia (FIA) is a contagious disease of cats caused by the blood parasite Hemobartonella felis. This organism attacks the red blood cells, resulting in their destruction and development of anemia.

FIA is spread by contact with infected blood through cat fights, other injuries or the bites of blood-sucking insects, such as fleas. Kittens may become infected, though it is unclear whether they become infected while still in the uterus or while nursing.

Some infected cats show no signs of illness until they are stressed by illness, injury or severe emotional upset. Recovered cats may become carriers, and relapses are common in these individuals. The time from infection to the appearance of the parasite on the red blood cells varies from 8 to 23 days.

Important Points in Treatment

1. Infected cats often have profound anemia that requires hospitalization and one or more blood transfusions. Blood tests are necessary to diagnose the condition and monitor the effectiveness of treatment.

2. Give all medication as directed. Call the doctor if you cannot give the medication.

3. Diet: Follow the instructions checked.

____Feed the normal diet.

____A special diet is required. Feed as follows: _____________________________________________________
4. Encourage your cat to drink water. Keep fresh water available at all times.

5. Keep your cat indoors and warm until fully recovered. Limit activity and handling, and do not encourage active play until recovery is complete.

6. Biting insects, such as fleas and ticks, spread this disease. Discuss parasite control with the doctor.


Notify the Doctor if Any of the Following Occur:

* Your cat's signs worsen or recur following an apparent recovery.

* Your cat refuses to eat or loses weight.

* Your cat seems depressed or has difficulty breathing.


Understanding Your Pet's Diagnosis

Hemobartonella (Haemobartonellosis)

What is hemobartonellosis?

Hemobartonellosis is a disease of the red blood cells. A tiny parasite infects the red blood cells and causes them to become fragile and to break apart inside the body. Hemobartonellosis is usually mild in dogs but is more severe in cats.

What causes hemobartonellosis?

The exact parasite differs in dogs and cats. Dogs are infected with Haemobartonella canis and cats are infected with Haemobartonella felis. These are closely related species and are classified as Rickettsia, a family of parasites that cause a wide range of diseases in animals. It is unknown how the parasites infect the dog or cat. Nor is it known how they are passed from pet to pet, but often only one pet in a household is infected, with no obvious spread between pets.

What are the signs of hemobartonellosis?

The usual signs of hemobartonellosis are related to anemia, which is a shortage of red blood cells. Dogs usually have mild disease, often showing only listlessness and pale gums. However, a dog that has had its spleen removed for other reasons is likely to have serious disease, having the same signs as cats. Some cats may be infected without signs of disease. Cats infected with feline leukemia virus (FeLV) may have more severe anemia. Cats infected with Haemobartonella may become depressed, weak, and have pale pink or white gums and tongue. They also may refuse to eat, may lose weight, and their skin and gums may become yellow. Without treatment, the cat may die.

How is hemobartonellosis diagnosed?

A complete blood count (CBC) will show a decrease in red blood cells. When a sample of the blood is stained and examined under the microscope, the parasite itself may be seen on the cells. The number or parasites rise and fall during the disease; so repeated tests may be needed. Blood chemistry panels may show changes, but these are variable and not diagnostic. Cats should be tested for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) since many cats can be infected with both Haemobartonella and feline leukemia virus at the same time. The presence of feline leukemia virus and its affect on the immune system can complicate treatment.

How is hemobartonellosis treated?

The treatment of choice is tetracycline antibiotics given for at least two weeks in dogs and three weeks in cats. In severely anemic pets, prednisolone (an oral steroid) may be given at first to slow down the breakdown of red blood cells. In some cases, a blood transfusion may be necessary. A glucose-rich, intravenous fluid may be life saving in very weak and debilitated pets. Some pets, especially cats, cannot tolerate tetracycline and will develop fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. If this occurs, the veterinarian may lower the dosage or choose another antibiotic. Only the veterinarian should make changes in treatment.

What is the prognosis for pets with hemobartonellosis?

When pets are treated promptly, the prognosis is good for recovery. Without treatment, a number of infected pets (approximately 30% of cats and fewer dogs) will die. Cats may remain carriers of the organism for long periods, but they usually do not become sick again once they have recovered.

The information on this page was obtained from the site www.vetmedcenter.com