Can Dogs Get Cat Scratch Fever?

Cat scratch fever is not just a rock song from decades past. Just as it sounds, cat scratch fever is an illness that people get from extra prickly kitties. If you've ever been scratched by a cat, you've likely noticed how the wound quickly becomes red and raised. Cats have unbelievably filthy nails, and can transmit some nasty bacteria when they scratch your skin! One of the bacteria found in cat claws is called “Bartonella”, and it can be quite the 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?


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 wreak havoc on the body.

Does My Dog Have Cat Scratch Fever?

So how do you tell if your pooch has bartonellosis? Info on this illness has only recently started to be found. While vets have known about infections caused by cat scratches for some time, knowledge of Bartonella traveling by way of bug has not been around long.

Many of the signs your dog will show if it has cat scratch fever mimic other health problems. Your canine companion will likely be suffering from pain and numbness, and may break out in acne, rashes or even bright red stretch marks! Vomiting and diarrhea are common and nose bleeds and seizures can happen in severe cases.

The most obvious cause of cat scratch fever is being scratched by an infected cat. That being said, it's actually thought that far more dogs get Bartonella from flea, tick, fly and lice bites.

If your vet is savvy, upon seeing your dog's symptoms they may run special blood and urine tests to monitor proteins, enzymes, and cell counts to ID the disease.

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

How Do I Treat My Dog's Cat Scratch Fever?

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 months, most dogs eventually go on to make a full recovery.

To cure bartonellosis, your vet will prescribe some sort of antibiotic. A high dose may be given for the first few weeks, followed by up to six months of low doses of the medication to fully get rid of the bacteria.

Being diligent in giving your dog his prescriptions can lead to a much faster healing process. It also helps to keep your pooch extra clean during this time, and to start on a regular anti-flea and tick medication.

If you'd like to read the stories of others who have dealt with cat scratch fever, or if you want to ask a professional all of your questions about the disease, check out Cat Scratch Fever in Dogs!

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.

  • Headaches - humans get headaches from Bartonella, but this symptom is hard to verify in dogs

  • An additional symptom that only people seem to get from cat scratch fever is a sore throat

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 his normal self and no longer had any symptoms of bartonellosis.

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