Can Dogs Get Cat Scratch Fever?

As the name implies, cat scratch fever is an illness that people can get as the result of a graze from a cat's claw. Sometimes, when scratched by a cat, you may notice the wound becomes red and raised. 

Cats typically have dirty nails, and can transmit bacteria when they scratch your skin. One of the bacteria found in cat claws is called “Bartonella”, and it can be quite a challenge to eliminate. So we know that humans can get cat scratch fever, but what about our canine pals?

Can Dogs Get Cat Scratch Fever?

YES!

Dogs can definitely be infected with Bartonella bacteria. That being said, they don't often get cat scratch fever from actual cat scratches. More often, dogs contract the bacteria after being bit by an insect, such as a cat flea or a tick, that has fed off of an infected animal. All sorts of animals carry Bartonella, which means that it may be more common than we even realize. This is bad news for both pups and people, because cat scratch fever, or bartonellosis, can sometimes wreak havoc on the body.

Does My Dog Have Cat Scratch Fever?

So how do you tell if your pooch has bartonellosis? A dog can exhibit some of the same symptoms of the disease as humans do. Fever, arthritis, and lameness are three signs that your dog is infected. Vomiting and diarrhea can point to catch scratch fever, as can the following:

  • Cough
  • Inflammation of the eyes
  • Nosebleed and discharge
  • Nose becomes irritated and swollen
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Seizures

The vet may see other evidence of the disease such as enlarged spleen, liver, and heart muscles. Some dogs are asymptomatic and the length of illness can vary from canine to canine.

Causes
The most obvious cause of cat scratch fever in humans is being scratched by an infected cat. Dogs get Bartonella from flea, tick, sandfly, mite, and fly bites. Chronic immunosuppression can lead to a predisposition to other infections.

Diagnosis
Upon seeing your dog's symptoms, the veterinarian may run special blood and urine tests to monitor proteins, enzymes, and cell counts to identify the disease. The white blood cell count may be high and the platelets could be low, leading to anemia. Other markers of the disease can be decreased protein in the blood and elevated liver enzymes.

If you're looking for more information about spotting Cat Scratch Fever in your pup, head over to Cat Scratch Fever in Dogs.

How is my Dog's Cat Scratch Fever Treated?

Once cat scratch fever is found to be the culprit behind your dog's sickness, the road to recovery may be long. While treatment can take several weeks, most dogs eventually go on to make a full recovery.

Treatment and Prevention

To cure bartonellosis, your vet will prescribe an antibiotic. Treatment length may be as long as 4-6 weeks. Due to the fact that antimicrobial resistance is a risk, antibiotics are given only to confirmed patients. After the disease has run its course, use preventative measures to avoid another bout. Use anti-flea and tick medications on your dog in case they come into contact with other animals with fleas. Take measures to discourage pesky fleas and ticks from taking up residence in your yard by regularly cutting the grass and clearing brush.

How is Cat Scratch Fever Similar in Dogs and Humans?

Bartonella can make both people and pooches quite sick. Some of the symptoms that affect both species include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Neurological damage

How is Cat Scratch Fever Different in Dogs and Humans?

While both owner and pup can get cat scratch fever, the way that the infection works is slightly different in each. Some of these differences are:

  • Humans tend to develop blisters or bumps where the bacteria has entered their skin, while dogs do not
  • Humans contract the disease from being scratched by an infected cat or bitten by a dog with the illness
  • Cats get the disease from the cat flea, whereas dogs are infected by fleas, ticks, sandflies, mites, and biting flies 

Case Study

One dog in North Carolina came down with suspicious symptoms after being bitten by a tick. His vet was able to diagnose the illness as cat scratch fever, but needed some help in treating the disease. They contacted an expert at the North Carolina State University who was able to recommend the right antibiotics to help get rid of the bacteria. After the prescription was done, the dog was back to normal and no longer had any symptoms of bartonellosis.

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