Cat Scratch Fever; it is not just a Song

William Fullmer DVM By William Fullmer DVM, 15th Oct 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3_n_n0j0/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Pets>Cats

I turned on the radio the other day and Ted Nugent’s 1977’s song Cat Scratch Fever was playing. While the song is neither about cats nor feline disease, there is a very real illness called cat scratch fever which can cause sickness in animals and humans.

Cat scratch fever is caused by bacteria of the genus Bartonella.

I turned on the radio the other day and Ted Nugent’s 1977’s song Cat Scratch Fever was playing. While the song is neither about cats nor feline disease, there is a very real illness called cat scratch fever which can cause sickness in animals and humans.

Cat scratch fever is caused by bacteria of the genus Bartonella. In cats and humans the bacteria may cause a number of inflammatory diseases1. Cats can exhibit sneezing, conjunctivitis, gingivitis, fever, swollen lymph nodes, heart disease, and intestinal disease, etc. Humans often have a fever, fatigue, headache, poor appetite, rash, gastritis, lymph node enlargement, palpitations, pain, numbness and acne2.

As you can see these clinical signs also mimic many other diseases and consequently cat scratch fever is often misdiagnosed. One of the common illnesses confused with cat scratch fever is in humans, is chronic Lyme’s Disease2. Therefore the challenge as I see it is proper diagnosis, which can be accomplished by blood testing. Bartonella infections are treatable with antibiotics and about 95% of infections respond to therapy. Without proper treatment, affected persons live with the difficult and debilitating clinic signs.

The disease is transmitted by cat (and occasionally dog) scratches and bites contaminated with flea feces. Ticks can also transmit Bartonella, if they have fed on infected dogs and cats3.

Control and prevention of cat scratch fever is definitely the best option. External parasite control, is in my opinion, the single most important aspect of prevention. Flea and tick control is more straight forward today than it ever has been. By treating fleas and ticks you also prevent other diseases and conditions transmitted by these parasites.

Multiple companies have manufactured topical or oral flea and tick products that are very safe and effective. The second method of prevention is to avoid cat scratches and bites. Sometimes this is easier said than done. As a veterinarian I have scars all over my hands and arms, but as I get older and wiser I find that I have fewer injuries.
Be vigilant with children and teach them the proper way to handle cats. The last method is to have your cat tested and treated if positive.

There is some controversy in the veterinary and scientific community as to whether Bartonella bacteria cause disease in cats and therefore whether cats should be treated. There is no question however, as to whether Bartonella causes disease in humans and so I always recommend treating infected cats, thereby preventing human exposure. This is especially important in homes with young children and immunocompromised persons such as those in chemotherapy and HIV positive individuals.

I would encourage you to discuss this important disease with your veterinarian to see if they recommend testing and treating. Testing and treating your cat if infected, could prevent serious health problems later for you and your pet.

1. National Veterinary Laboratory Newsletter VOl. 9, Number 1

2. Firstline DVM 360 December 2010 vol. 6, no. 12

Tags

Bacteria, Bartonella, Cat, Cat Care, Cat Scratch Fever, Cats, Cats And Humans, Infected, Infection, Infection And Bacteria, Infections, Infectious, Infectious Disease, Ted Nugent

Meet the author

author avatar William Fullmer DVM
Dr. Fullmer graduated from Washington State University with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. He also graduated from the University of Idaho with a bachelor's degree in Veterinary Sciences and f

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
15th Oct 2011 (#)

Very true about teaching kids to handle cats correctly, not only could the children get scratched, they could hurt the cat.

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