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Cat Scratch Disease


Cat scratch disease (CSD)

is caused by bacteria that live 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 and then scratches or bites human skin. CSD can also be spread if you rub your eyes after you hold an infected cat. Symptoms may go away in 2 to 4 months without treatment.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Painless blisters or bumps along your wound 3 to 10 days after you have been bitten or scratched
  • Red, swollen, and painful lymph nodes near the wound, such as in your neck, armpit, and groin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rash, sore throat, headache, or fever
  • Muscle, joint, or stomach pain

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have severe pain in your stomach, muscles, bones, or joints.
  • You have severe pain in the lymph nodes in your neck, armpit, or groin.
  • You have seizures, headaches, or cannot think clearly.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have a fever, sore throat, or headache.
  • You notice swelling in your neck, armpit, or groin.
  • You have stomach, muscle, or joint pain.
  • You have a skin rash, itching, or swelling after you take your medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for cat scratch disease

may include any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to help treat a bacterial infection or decrease pain, fever, and swelling.
  • Incision and drainage may be used to drain fluid or pus from your lymph nodes.
  • Surgery may be used to remove all or part of your affected lymph nodes.

Prevent cat scratch disease:

  • Always wash your hands after you handle or pet a cat. Use soap and water, and wash for at least 20 seconds. Wash the front and back of each hand, and in between all fingers. Use the fingers of one hand to scrub under the nails of the other hand. Rinse under warm, running water. Dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. Use hand sanitizer that contains alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Have your cat treated for fleas. Fleas can spread the germ from cat to cat.
  • Do not allow your cat to lick an open wound on your skin.
  • Take care when you play with cats to avoid bites or scratches. Avoid rough play.
  • If you get scratched, licked, or bitten by a cat, wash the area with clean water and soap right away.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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 (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.