Cat Scratch Disease


Cat-scratch disease (CSD) is an infection caused by a bacteria (germ) called Bartonella henselae that is in a cat's mouth. You can get CSD by being scratched, licked, or bitten by an infected cat. The germs usually spread after the cat licks its paws then scratches or bites human skin.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


Medicines used to treat CSD may cause nausea or vomiting. You may have an allergic reaction or develop kidney problems with long-term use of strong antibiotics. If left untreated, the infection may spread to other parts of the body. CSD may affect the bones, lungs, heart, liver, and brain. People who have decreased ability to fight infection are at a higher risk of problems.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


You may be given the following medicines:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.

  • Antipyretics: This medicine is given to decrease a fever.

  • Pain medicine: Caregivers may give you medicine to take away or decrease your pain.

    • Do not wait until the pain is severe to ask for your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease. The medicine may not work as well at controlling your pain if you wait too long to take it.

    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling a caregiver when you want to get out of bed or if you need help.


You may need any of the following tests:

  • Blood tests: These tests will look for the bacteria that causes CSD or for any antibodies against the bacteria. Antibodies are substances that the immune system makes to protect the body from outside invaders. It can give your caregivers more information about your health. You may need to have blood drawn more than once.

  • Biopsy: For a biopsy, a small piece of tissue is taken from the infected area. This sample is then sent to the lab for tests. This helps caregivers learn what kind of infection you have.

  • Culture: This is a test to grow and identify the germ that is causing your condition. Samples may be taken from your wound, blood, or lymph nodes.

  • Imaging tests:

    • Computed tomography scan: This test, also called CT scan, is used to take pictures of tissues using a special x-ray machine. This may be used to look at bones, muscles, blood vessels, and organs.

    • Magnetic resonance imaging: This test is also called an MRI. During the MRI, pictures of the tissues in an area of your body are taken. Caregivers use these pictures to look for other problems or infection in your bones or other tissues.

    • Ultrasound: An ultrasound is a simple test that looks inside of your body. Sound waves are used to show pictures of your organs and tissues on a TV-like screen.

    • X-rays: These are pictures of your bones and tissues. Caregivers use the pictures to look for problems in the bones or other parts of the body.

  • Skin test: A small amount of liquid is injected just under your skin, usually on the forearm. This pushes a part of the skin so that a small lump is made. Your caregiver will mark this area. Your skin is then checked after 2 to 3 days for a reaction indicating CSD.

Treatment options:

  • Drainage: Caregivers may drain the fluid or pus that has collected in your lymph nodes with a needle. Caregivers may also drain the pus by making an incision (cut) in the affected area.

  • Surgery: Caregivers may remove all or part of your affected lymph nodes. This may be done if your condition lasts longer than normal.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Cat Scratch Disease (Inpatient Care)