Cat Scratch Fever

Cat Scratch Fever

Cat scratch fever is a disease that can transmit to humans with the potential of some serious side-effects. While nearly all instances of cat scratch fever our Portland Veterinarians see are mild – severe cases often require hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics to treat, and those with impaired immune systems should seek medical attention regardless.

Bartonella henselae, the bacterium involved with cat scratch fever, is passed via cat scratches or cat bites. The disease is actually spread by flea feces that can accumulate under the nails of cats.  So to help curb the spread of this disease it is important that indoor-outdoor cats are protected against fleas. While most cat scratches will only result in pain, bleeding and swollen lymph in the affected area, about 40 percent of cats will carry Bartonella henselae at some point in their lives, increasing the risk of transmission any time a person gets injured. Cats do not display any traits when carrying this bacterium, so treat every scratch and bite the same, and wash the injury with soap and water immediately. Kittens are more likely to carry the bacterium than adult cats, so avoid rough play.

If you have been scratched by a cat and notice you are tired, running a fever, lost your appetite, have a headache or backache and you may see purulent materail at the affected site approximately one to two weeks after the injury. Those experiencing these symptoms should contact their physician immediately. For children, the elderly or those with compromised immune systems, contact a physician if there may even be a chance of infection. Healthy people will generally require no treatment, but the complications arising from cat scratch fever are severe, including the possibility of an enlarged spleen or meningitis. While these complications are rare, it is best to have a physician determine the course of treatment.

For those who are worried their cat may be a carrier, contact one of our AAHA Accredited Portland veterinarians. Testing for the bacterium is usually reserved for clinically ill cats, but the Portland Veterinarians at Murrayhill Veterinary Hospital and they can determine whether or not testing is appropriate.

Avoid cat scratch fever altogether by following a few safety tips. First, don’t encourage rough play from cats. Wash all bites and scratches with warm water and soap, and don’t allow the cat to lick the wound. Keep the cat’s claws trimmed, and keep the cat protected from fleas as these are thought to play a role in transmitting this bacterium. Keeping your cat indoors will prevent exposure.

Murrayhill Veterinary Hospital is an AAHA accredited Vet Hospital servicing Portland, Oregon.

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