Canine Bartonellosis



Bartonella spp. are haemotropic gram-negative bacteria within the family Bartonellaceae that are mainly transmitted by vectors. A characteristic feature of these bacteria is their adherence to and invasion of erythrocytes.

The widespread occurrence and diversity of these bacteria has been increasingly recognised and thus resulted in expansion of the genus Bartonella to more than 30 currently described species or subspecies. Many Bartonella species appear to be well-adapted to extended survival in mammalian reservoir hosts without causing clinical symptoms.

While cats are considered to be the main mammalian reservoir for important zoonotic Bartonella species (B. henselae, B. clarridgeiae and B. koehlerae.), the role of dogs as an important reservoir seems less clear. Current evidence indicates that canids – including coyotes, dogs and grey foxes – potentially serve as reservoir hosts for B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii. Furthermore, the presence of B. rochalimae (previously described as B. clarridgeiae-like) in dogs, grey and red foxes, raccoons and coyotes, as well as fleas collected on grey foxes, indicates that wild carnivores may function as natural reservoir of this zoonotic Bartonella species too, with fleas being the main vector.

It is not completely clear if Bartonellae are primary pathogens of dogs, or opportunistic pathogens. Species known to infect dogs are B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii, B. henselae, which seem to be the most likely species to be associated with clinical disease. Further B. clarridgeiae, B .washoensis, B. elizabethae, B. koehlerae and B. quintana have been reported.

Several Bartonella species have been identified as zoonotic pathogens including B. henselae and B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii.

Other examples of reservoir hosts include cattle, which appear to be the mammalian reservoir for B. bovis and human beings for B. quintana.


Further information

  • Agan BK, Dolan MJ: Laboratory diagnosis of Bartonella infections. Clin Lab Med. 2002, 22, 937-62
  • Billeter SA, Levy MG, Chomel BB, et al.: Vector transmission of Bartonella species with emphasis on the potential for tick transmission. Med Vet Entomol. 2008, 22, 1-15
  • Boulouis HJ, Chang CC, Henn JB, et al.: Factors associated with the rapid emergence of zoonotic Bartonella infections. Vet Res. 2005, 36, 383-410
  • Breitschwerdt EB, Maggi RG, Chomel BB, et al.: Bartonellosis: an emerging infectious disease of zoonotic importance to animals and human beings. J Vet Emerg Crit Care (San Antonio). 2010, 20, 8-30
  • Breitschwerdt EB, Maggi RG: Comparative medical features of canine and human bartonellosis. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2009, 15, 106-7
  • Chomel BB, Boulouis HJ, Maruyama S, et al.: Bartonella spp. in pets and effect on human health. Emerg Infect Dis. 2006, 12, 389-94
  • Chomel BB, Kasten RW: Bartonellosis, an increasingly recognized zoonosis. J Appl Microbiol. 2010, 109, 743-50
  • Duncan AB, Maggi RG, Breitschwerdt EB: A combined approach for the enhanced detection and isolation of Bartonella species in dog blood samples: pre-enrichment liquid culture followed by PCR and subculture onto agar plates. J Microbiol Methods. 2007, 69, 273-81
  • Gabriel MW, Henn J, Foley JE, et al.: Zoonotic Bartonella species in fleas collected on gray foxes (Urocyon cinereo argenteus). Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2009, 9, 597–602
  • Guptill L: Bartonellosis. Vet Microbiol. 2010, 140, 347-59
  • Henn JB, Chomel BB, Boulouis HJ, et al.: Bartonella rochalimae in raccoons, coyotes, and red foxes. Emerg Infect Dis. 2009, 15, 1984-7
  • Henn JB, Gabriel MW, Kasten RW, et al.: Infective endocarditis in a dog and the phylogenetic relationship of the associated "Bartonella rochalimae" strain with isolates from dogs, gray foxes, and a human. J Clin Microbiol. 2009, 47, 787-90
  • Pappalardo BL, Brown TT, Tompkins M, et al.: Immunopathology of Bartonella vinsonii (berkhoffii) in experimentally infected dogs. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2001, 83, 125-47

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