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cat scratch disease

Protecting your cat against fleas & Cat Scratch Disease

A flea infestation can result in a number of serious conditions for your cat. One condition is Cat Scratch Disease (CSD).

With the warmer wetter weather in the UK, fleas are surviving outdoors in greater numbers, creating a reservoir to potentially infest domestic pets. Cat fleas are not only a nuisance as a parasite, but they also have the ability to carry disease. One of these flea-borne diseases, CSD, infects humans through the intermediate host of the cat.

How cats become infected

The Bartonella bacteria which causes CSD was found in 11.3% of the fleas found on UK dogs and cats. Cats become infected with Bartonella through flea bites, the vast majority of cats will carry the bacteria silently and not show any symptoms. 

Cat Scratch Disease in humans

CSD in humans most often occurs after a cat bite or scratch, hence the name. Most cases are seen in children younger than 15 years old that have been playing with kittens. Symptoms include fever, enlarged tender lymph nodes that develop 1-3 weeks after the scratch has occurred and pustules at the scratch site. Rarely complications can involve infection of the heart valves. There is some limited evidence to suggest that CSD can be spread directly to people by the bites of infected cat fleas. 

How can I prevent Cat Scratch Disease?

Regular year-round effective flea control is the best way to prevent your cat becoming infected with Bartonella bacteria. 

If you are scratched by a cat, ensure to wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and remain vigilant for the symptoms 1-3 weeks later. 

Take particular care if you have a weakened immune system.

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Written by Lindsay Rose MA VetMB CertAVP CertVBM MRCVS