VCA Animal Hospitals

What is cat scratch disease?

Published: Aug 09, 2012

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When you hear the words "cat scratch disease," you may assume that you're hearing about a type of feline illness. But in reality, cat scratch disease, or CSD, is an illness that affects humans, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. The illness itself is caused by a microorganism known as Bartonella henselae and it is most commonly transmitted through a cat scratch or bite.  

What does CSD look like?

Symptoms of cat scratch fever can vary, but typically involve mild fever, fatigue and enlarged lymph nodes. You may see lesions on the skin or conjunctiva, a membrane coating the eyelid and white of the eye. Fortunately, most cases of CSD resolve without the need for medication, however, VCA reports that there are a few strains of the Bartonella species that may cause more serious, even chronic problems.

How did I get infected?

VCA reports that CSD can be passed a number of ways, and cases have occurred in people with no apparent contact with cats.  However, the most common way humans are exposed are through contact with infected cats. Fleas carry the Bartonella henselae organism and when fleas feed on cats they will infect that cat as well as leave “flea dirt” on the cat that is also infectious and can be transmitted to humans.  If you were recently scratched by a cat and are now experiencing symptoms of CSD, then chances are you may have contracted the illness from the cat scratch.  However, a scratch is not absolutely necessary and you may contract the illness by more casual contact with infected “flea dirt” on the cat.  That's why it's essential for cat owners to speak to their vet about ways to prevent cat fleas.

How can I prevent CSD?

Many of the things you are doing to take care of your cat and keep him healthy can also help prevent cases of CSD. Keep your cat's nails trimmed, as this will reduce his likelihood of scratching. However, take note that there is no evidence that shows de-clawing your cat will reduce instances of CSD. This is because it's not the claw itself, but rather the infected flea dirt underneath the claw, that causes the illness. Avoiding rough play with your cat is a good way to prevent the illness, but if you do get bitten or scratched by your cat, be sure to wash the site thoroughly with soap or disinfectant. Indoor cats may be less likely to contract fleas, but no matter whether your feline remains inside or ventures into the great outdoors, year-round flea control is a must.


General Practice

We have over 540 animal hospitals in 41 states that are staffed by more than 2,000 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 200 being board-certified specialists. The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments*: Wellness, Spay/neuter, Advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), Internal medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Neurology, Boarding, Grooming

*services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

We have twenty-eight specialty hospitals across the US so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology and surgery.

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, check with a local animal hospital emergency clinic.