Cat Scratch Disease Can Cause Blindness

June 15, 2015

According to the ASPCA, It's estimated that 70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats are owned in the United States. Approximately 37-47% of all households in the United States have a dog, and 30-37% have a cat. Pets bring many known health benefits as well as companionship to their owners. But when does owning a cat become dangerous to your health?

If you've ever played with a cat or kitten, you know that it's not unusal for "claws to be drawn" during an interaction with a finicky feline. There's a good reason to be careful with those scratches, especially with kittens under one year of age, as they are more likely to carry a disease called Cat-scratch disease (CSD). CSD is a bacterial infection spread by cats. CSD is caused by a bacterium called Bartonella henselae.  The disease spreads when an infected cat licks a person's open wound, or bites or scratches a person hard enough to break the surface of the skin. Sometimes a cat can pass the bacteria directly from it's fur.

About 40% of cats will carry this bacterium at some point in their lives, and most cats will never show any sign of illness. The Centers for Disease Control recommends a good hand washing each time you touch or pet your cat. Also, wash  and disinfect all cat bites or scratches with soap and plenty of running water when they occur. Never allow a cat to lick your wounds, and notify your doctor if you develop any symptoms of cat-scratch disease.

Cat Scratch Disease Can Cause Loss of Vision

40% of Cats Will Carry Cat Scratch Disease at Some Point in Their Lifetime


Signs and Symptoms of CSD:

Between three to 14 days after the skin is broken, a mild infection can occur at the site of the scratch or bite. The infected area may appear swollen and red with round, raised lesions and can have pus. The infection can feel warm or painful. A person with CSD may also have a fever, headache, poor appetite, and exhaustion. Later, the person's lymph nodes closest to the original scratch or bite can become swollen, tender, or painful.

Dangers of CSD to humans:

Although rare, CSD can cause people to have serious complications. CSD can affect the brain, eyes, heart, or other internal organs. These rare complications, which may require intensive treatment, are more likely to occur in children younger than 5 years and people with weakened immune systems. An Ohio woman reported in May 2015 that she went blind in one eye after one of her cats licked her. Read the article here.