Cat Scratch Disease Part 1: What You Need to Know

Bartonella henselae causes an infection known as cat scratch disease (CSD) in cats, humans, and other species. CSD is an emerging health issue that we are likely to hear more about as time passes.

Cat grooming

Spread of Cat Scratch Disease

This disease is carried by cats and their fleas and can be spread through bites by infected cats or fleas, scratches from infected cats, or by contact with infected cat’s saliva. CSD is most commonly spread to humans through the fleas of infected cats. It has actually been shown that there is a 90% likelihood that a human diagnosed with  cat scratch disease  have had contact with a cat that also tests positive.

Cats are more likely to contract cat scratch disease if they living in the South or Southeast where the environment is warm and humid. If a cat doesn’t have complete flea control, they are at an even higher risk. In areas with low flea control rates and the right environment, as many as 40% of cats in a given area may be infected.


Many cats that test positive for cat scratch disease show no symptoms, while others will have fever, eye or gum inflammation, general soreness, muscle pain, or other non-specific signs. It has been suggested that cat scratch disease is the true cause of a variety of chronic inflammatory health issues in cats, but it is hard to tell which cats will get sick, with the varying range of symptoms.

The Good News

Cat scratch disease is treatable with several weeks of antibiotics and there are a range of blood tests available that detect possible infections in cats, whether or not you see symptoms. You can also prevent cat scratch disease by following these simple steps:

  • Maintain flea control year-round.  Since fleas are one of the main ways that the disease is transmitted, cutting down on fleas will help keep your cat from getting infected as well as preventing them from infecting you or your family if they are already infected. Revolution, Certifect, and Frontline Plus are all great brands, but avoid generic flea control.
  • Consider the risk  to a given person as a result of interacting with potentially infected cats, especially if that person has a weak immune system or is at a vulnerable age.
  • Don’t play rough  with your cats, as it can lead to bites or scratches that spread the disease.
  • Test your cat.  Taking your cat to the veterinarian for a blood test is the best way to find out if they have cat scratch disease and will also allow your vet to prescribe antibiotics if necessary.

If your cat is showing signs and symptoms of cat scratch disease, or if you just haven’t had them tested recently, bring them into one of the veterinarians with  Chastain Veterinary Medical Group. Give Meadow Brook Animal Hospital in McKinney a call at (972) 529-5033 or Preston Road Animal Hospital of Dallas a call at (972) 239-1309 to set up your appointment today!

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