Dogs Could Cause Cat Scratch Fever

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We should be aware that dogs could also cause cat scratch fever in humans. It sounds rather strange but it is true and I hope that this information takes some of the automatic blame away from the cat. You would have thought that with a name like “cat scratch fever” that the disease was only associated with the domestic cat but it may not be.

Domestic cats are particularly susceptible to different species of the Barotnella bacteria including Bartonella hensalae, which apparently is in up to 41% of healthy cats in the USA (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC).

Dogs may carry various species of Bartonella inclucing hensalae. It is more likely to cause symptoms in dogs compared to cats.

CDC in the USA, state that it is not known whether dogs can transmit infection to people. This is interesting because a recent case in the Netherlands may indicate that it can be transmitted to people from dogs. If the bacteria is on or in the dog I would have thought that is was fairly obvious that the bacteria could be transmitted through a dog scratch of bite.

Fox News reports the story of a woman living in the Netherlands who contracted a bacterial infection. It was thought that she contracted it from one of her cats.

She felt tired and was having night sweats and she had pain in her upper right arm. Her symptoms were rather vague which made diagnosis more difficult.

And one time they thought she had cancer because there were so many abnormalities throughout her body. Extensive diagnoses and the biopsy indicated an infectious disease.

Finally, bloodwork suggested that she was infected with bacteria from the genus Bartonella.

Cat scratch fever is quite rare. Cats usually get the bacterial infection as kittens from fleas. Sometimes they get the infection from other cats. When the kitten scratches or bites the fleas on his skin the flea droppings can get embedded into their claws or in their mouth. Cats can transmit the bacteria to people with a scratch or a bite.

The problem with cat scratch fever is that it can cause problems with people who have a compromised immune system.

In this woman’s case, it was not clear whether her cats had caused the infection because the woman doesn’t remember being bitten or scratched by either of her two cats.

Tellingly, however, she does remember being bitten by young dog on her leg about two weeks before her symptoms commenced.

Another interesting element of this case is that tests for the particular species of Bartonella, namely, hensalae did not come out positive in a sample of the woman’s duodenum which is a part of the gut.

So the case remains a mystery but there is a possibility that she got cat scratch disease from the dog that bit her.

The dog in question was not tested for the bacteria.  But we are told by the author writing for Fox News that there have been a few reports of dogs carrying Bartonella hensalae, although cats, as we know, are the main carrier.

This article, as mentioned, is simply a reminder that we should not always point the blame at the cat and also we should remind ourselves that getting cat scratch fever from your cat companion is uncommon.

This is another example of the nuisance level of the cat flea, which is probably the most prevalent reason for disease in cats and in this instance sometimes in humans.

5 thoughts on “Dogs Could Cause Cat Scratch Fever”

  1. I wish that I could wave a magic wand and make all humans rational enough to know that they are the cause of 95% of the transmissional diseases and conditions on this planet. Trying to divert the blame to other creatures is cowardly.

    Bartonella hensalae is carried in fleas (particularly sand fleas), body lice and ticks. At least 2 of these cannot be completely attributed to any animal that is nonhuman.

    I’ve always found it intriguing that humans can never transmit their digusting diseases to animals. It’s almost as if they are the chosen ones.

    • Whenever there is an Internet discussion about zoonotic diseases we always discuss the transmission of disease from an animal to human and never from human to an animal, as you state. This is because the human is very arrogant and often very ignorant at the same time

      • Even if it’s proven that dogs or other animals can transmit the disease, the misnomer “cat scratch fever” will stick. As Ruth says, it provides one of the excuses for declawing. I daresay feral/stray cat haters use it when labelling them as disease-ridden vermin.

        It is recognised that humans can transmit some illnesses to animals. Tourists on trips to see mountain gorillas are warned to maintain their distance for this very reason.

        Years ago I was fortunate enough to swim with ex-captive dolphins now living free in Israel. We were told in no uncertain terms that we were not allowed to touch or approach them, unless they came to us. They mentioned at the time that dolphins are vulnerable to certain human infections or that rough handling could cause skin damage leading to infection.

        • I like the dolphin story. A recognition that humans can spread disease to animals. I think one of the problems is that we don’t consider ourselves as animals. We are above the nasty parasites and bacteria that infests “animals”. We are sterile and perfect. Cats are smelly and disease-ridden. Human arrogance is breath taking.

  2. Yes dogs claws are much more dangerous than cats claws. I remember our late mother had a very bad arm which never healed up, a dog jumped at her in her wheelchair and tore the skin. It was the owner’s fault of course for not keeping it under control.
    Her own 4 cats never ever scratched her!
    It makes me so angry that there is shock and horror if anyone suggests declawing a dog, yet they think it’s acceptable to declaw a cat.
    What difference? None! No animal should be declawed.


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