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What is Cat Scratch Fever?

When a dog is bitten by fleas, sand flies, or lice, bacteria enters the blood and results in cat scratch fever. Bartonella will invade and damage cells, causing your companion to become ill. If your dog appears to be suffering from malaise and is lethargic or depressed, you may want to take him to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Weight loss and appetite reduction may be apparent as well, though some dogs may not reveal the clinical signs associated with this condition. Because of this, any small sign of your pet being unwell means a veterinarian visit is necessary. An illness, even though it may seem mild, can escalate and lead to serious complications for your pet.

Dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors, who live in rural areas, or who like to roam in fields or along the water’s edge can be exposed to sand flies, ticks, fleas and lice on a regular basis.

Dogs are infected by the Bartonella spp bacteria through fleas, ticks, lice and sand flies. This zoonotic disease can be transmitted from dog to pet owner.

Symptoms of Cat Scratch Fever in Dogs

Some canines may not exhibit clinical signs of catch scratch fever. Some of the subtle signs may be fever, weakness and enlarged lymph nodes. Symptoms that can be more obvious are:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargic behavior
  • Bloody nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Coughing and vomiting
  • Lameness
  • Nasal discharge

Types

Dogs can be adversely affected by five species of the Bartonella disease, which includes:

  • B. henselae
  • B. elizabethae 
  • B. vinsonii subspecies berkhoffi
  • B. washoensis 
  • B. clarridgeiae
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Causes of Cat Scratch Fever in Dogs

Bartonellosis or cat scratch fever is a condition resulting from Bartonella, the bacteria associated with the disease. Bartonella has various subspecies and with each of them there are different symptoms. The endothelial and red blood cells are affected in most dogs. 

Some of the causes include:

  • Tick and flea infestation in the past
  • Exposure to lice, flea, sand flies and lice
  • Infection of Bacterium Bartonella
  • Rural or stray living environment
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Diagnosis of Cat Scratch Fever in Dogs

For a diagnosis, the veterinarian will conduct a series of tests and complete examination. Clinical signs such as bleeding from the nose and coughing accompanied by vomiting will indicate a serious illness. Further diagnostic testing may be suggested and will include:

  • Blood count
  • Urinalysis
  • Blood culture
  • Serology
  • Biochemistry profile

The veterinary team will be looking for markers specific to catch scratch fever such as liver enzyme levels, protein concentration, and white blood cell count.

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Treatment of Cat Scratch Fever in Dogs

The symptoms will determine the level of treatment or whether your dog needs antibiotics or not. If your dog shows the clinical symptoms of this condition, then antibiotics may be necessary, in addition to supportive care. The veterinary specialist will often administer antibiotics for four to six weeks. If the dog’s internal organs or blood have been seriously affected, hospitalization might be the recourse for long-term supportive care with lower doses of antibiotics to avoid relapse. Effective antibiotics include:

  • Doxycycline
  • Erythromycin
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Azithromycin
  • Clarithromycin
  • Rifampin
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Recovery of Cat Scratch Fever in Dogs

Bartonellosis requires professional in-office care. Once your pet is on the mend, you can administer preventative care at home by making sure to maintain good hygiene. If you see your dog with scratches or bites, make sure you wash the area. Under the direction of your veterinary caregiver, maintain thorough flea control and use veterinary prescribed products that target ticks, lice and fleas.

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Cat Scratch Fever Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Buddy

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Pomeranian

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7

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Poor Appetite

My fur baby not feeling good he has a fever very out of it heart beat very fast you can see him shaking from it no appetite could this be a sign of cat cratch fever he's been on steroids and antibiotics an pain med can he die from cat scratch fevet

Nov. 27, 2017

Buddy's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Buddy’s symptoms are a little vague and may be attributable to many different types of infection, cat scratch fever is normally associated with flea bites in dogs; any possible infection can be lethal if it is not managed properly, without examining Buddy or sending a sample for culture and sensitivity it is difficult to say what the specific cause is. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Nov. 27, 2017

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Maikoh

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Husky

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5 Months

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Fair severity

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2 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Lethargy
Moaning

Hi there, My dog Maikoh has been feeling very lethargic, has a runny tummy, and moans most of the time. Could these symptoms possiblu be cat scratch fever. I just also want to point out that I have cat and she isn't showing the same symptoms. Kind regards

Sept. 16, 2017

Maikoh's Owner

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2 Recommendations

Cat scratch fever is typically spread by fleas; there are various causes for diarrhoea and abdominal pain in dogs which may be due to infections, parasites, poisoning, foreign objects, dietary issues among other causes. It would be best to have Maikoh examined and a stool sample taken to be on the safe side; your Veterinarian may prescribe an all round antibiotic or other medication dependent on the findings from their examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Sept. 16, 2017

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Sadee

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Border Terrier mix (possibly mixed with poodle)

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2.5 years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

No Symptoms

Hello. I'm a first time dog owner of two years. I pride myself in getting the knowledge needed and research a great deal, trying to be a good dog owner. Tonight, while at a friend's home, her small dog and mine got attacked by their two mean cats. We got home with my dog to find about 12 puncture wounds from cat bites and 5 scratches. One of the major scratches is one inch long and the other bad one is 2 inches long. I'm at a loss here. No gaping wounds or open gashes, but the skin was broken with each one scratch or bite. I washed the areas with soap and water, rinsed them, and applied Neosporin. I'm worried about infection in my dog. She's quite docile so I won't have that to go by when monitoring her for negative effects of the bite. Should I automatically take my dog in to get checked and antibiotics or should I keep watching the wounds, keeping them clean? Our Sadee is a 2 1/2 year old rescue pup who joined our family two years ago, she has recently had her annual check up, vaccinations (including rabies) on 4-6-17 and is healthy. I'm not in a financial situation to go to the vet if not absolutely necessary but I'm looking for information on what to look for and what to do next. I'd appreciate any help. Thank you. Danielle

July 26, 2017

Sadee's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Cleaning the wound and applying neosporin will help, there is always a risk of infection but cleaning the area regularly (try diluted chlorhexidine) and applying neosporin (try to not let her lick it) should help. If you notice discolouration or swelling visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2017

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