Cat Scratch Fever….Tune or Serious Disease?

Feline Leukemia Virus, Feline Immunodeficiency virus and Feline Bartonellosis all have one thing in common.  They are all serious diseases in cats.  But the last of the three, Bartonellosis, can also be a serious disease in people.  Once known as Cat Scratch Fever, although more aptly now as Cat Scratch Disease (CSD), it is caused by a bacteria known as Bartonella. This bacteria is transmitted from cat to cat by fleas. As your feline friend grooms himself he or she may then become infected with the bacteria.  This bacteria inhabits the mouth but can then be spread to the claws during grooming.  By scratching, biting or licking this bacteria may then be transmitted to you potentially resulting in cat scratch disease.  Though most people may not develop illness others are higher risk . Some groups particularly such as children, immunosuppressed individuals or even those whose body may be in a current stressed state can become ill.  The disease itself may result in nothing more than a mild   influenza type infection but in other instances may initiate serious skin, neurologic or even cardiac disease.

Though your cat may be a carrier, the bacteria may not affect her.  In some instances, however, a variety of illnesses may occur as a result of bartonella. Gingivitis, mouth ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease and cardiac disease are but a few of the diseases that have been implicated in the study of CSD.

So what can be done? First on the agenda is always have any new cat who enters your household laboratory tested for Bartonella.  If any pets currently living with you have not been tested, check with your local vet to get them checked. Bartonella  has been reported to have an incidnece as high as 30 to 35 percent in many populations in the US. Secondly, practice effective flea control.  There are a variety of products available but always check with your veterinarian to make sure that the one you are using is safe. Thirdly, in the event that any of your pets test positive for this disease, make sure that you medicate per the instructions as written on the medication.  Finally make sure to have your pet retested in 6-12 months by your local vet to ensure that the treatment regimen of antibiotics has been effective.

Cat Scratch Disease is a very real disease.  By understanding that it can be serious and yet treatable, it can be rendered controlled in  your feline environment.  However a positive Bartonella finding in any pet that you have been exposed to becomes an important part of your medical history as well as your pets.