Pet Pointers: Cat scratch fever
You have probably heard of cat scratch fever and thought it was a clever song or an old wive’s tale, but it is a real disease. In this edition of Pet Pointers, Lisa Chelenza has more about the symptoms of and treatment for this fairly common disease.
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There are over 70 million housecats in the United States, but with all of those cat lovers out there, many people are unfamiliar with cat scratch disease. During their lifetime, about 40 percent of cats will carry the Bartonella bacteria that causes the disease. And while cats do not exhibit symptoms, if you are bitten by a cat carrying the bacteria, you could develop cat scratch disease.
“Although it is called cat scratch disease, you can get it from scratches and bites, and it's usually because it is in their mouths and they can lick their paws and scratch you. So you can get it that way or if they bite you, you can obtain it that way. What it usually causes in people is an acute swelling, redness and warmth of the area that has been bitten or scratched. And then it can cause what's called ascending cellulitus that spreads up an arm or leg from the bite or scratch wound itself. It can be pretty severe or life threatening and calls for immediate evaluation,” said Dr. Maureen Luschini, veterinarian.
To prevent infection, avoid being bitten. Even a playful nip can break the skin and transfer bacteria. Avoid "rough play" with cats and kittens. You want to develop a loving relationship with your cat, so only gentle petting should be allowed. Let your cats attack toys, not your hands.
Do not allow your cat to lick an open wound on your body or they could transfer bacteria.
Wash cat bites and scratches immediately and thoroughly with running water and soap. Even a small wound should receive attention.
Remember your cat’s monthly flea control, the bacteria is transferred to your cat via fleas so preventing an infestation is key.
If you are bitten, it’s important that you see your doctor ASAP and get your cat to the vet for treatment as well.