We understand more and more the importance of keeping pets in society. It has now been proven that petting animal lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, reduce feelings of loneliness, and increase activities such as exercise and socialization. But besides this, we need to be aware of some inconveniences and act by knowing and fulfilling the responsibilities brought by petting animals. At your request, as I promised last episode, I will describe an ailment we call “cat scratch disease” in the Pediatric Surgeon’s Journal.
Cat scratch disease is actually an infection caused by a bacteria found in cats. The bacteria do not cause a disease in cats. So, the cat looks completely normal. But when a cat scratches, bites, licks your eyes, mouth or causes wound on your skin, these bacteria can pass to you. Children between the ages of 2-14 make up 80% of the patients.
Bad news for you, we all love kittens, but it’s mostly from kittens. Because its more likely to be found in the blood of kittens.
Another contagious agent is fleas found on infected cats.
So, what’s going on?
If it is an infected cat, a small lump, pimple-like lesion forms on the injured area within 3-10 days. Complaints such as fever, headache, fatigue appear. After an average of two weeks, swelling begins to occur in the lymph nodes of that region, typically. You know, when we have a throat infection, small, ball-like glands form in our throat, we call them lymph nodes. Mostly, swelling occurs in the lymph nodes in the head, neck and armpits. These swellings are usually painful, the skin over them is red in color, and an abscess may occur in 10-15% of them. Lymph node swelling caused by cat scratch disease usually disappears gradually within 1-4 months.
Yes, 85-90% disappear, but sometimes, 1-6 weeks after the lymph node swelling, the liver, spleen, eyes, bones or central nervous system can also be involved. In such cases, it can turn into a life-threatening condition. Symptoms such as discharge in the eyes, redness, loss of vision, blurred consciousness, disorientation, epileptic seizures, coma and paralysis may occur. Symptoms such as arthritis and muscle pain may occur, especially in the knee, wrist and elbow joints.
Usually, during the questioning of the patient, we can learn that there was a cat scratching incident before. We confirm our diagnosis with some blood tests and imaging methods. If there are typical findings, we do not need to take a biopsy from the lymph nodes. However, if systemic complaints have not started to regress within 2-5 days, or if we suspect other diseases such as lymphoma or tuberculosis, we take a biopsy and make the necessary evaluations.
We always start antibiotic treatment for everyone with cat-scratch disease. Although we know that the disease can regress without antibiotic treatment, antibiotics can shorten the duration and prevent the occurrence of systemic disease.
The best treatment, as always, is prevention.
In particular, it is necessary to stay away from cats with a risk of scratching, wash hands after playing with cats, pay attention to flea cleaning, and wash the area well with soap and plenty of water if a cat bites or scratches.
I’m not saying don’t pet cats to protect yourself from diseases that can be transmitted from cats. We should not deprive ourselves and our children of this pleasure. But we have to act by following some rules. Actually these are very simple:
Regular veterinary check-up
Regular flea and tick control and vaccination for external parasites
Proper food feeding (not allowing them to eat raw meat, raw eggs, garbage, feces)
Regular trimming of cat nails
Good washing of hands after cleaning cat litter
Not keeping cat food and human food in the same place
Yes, we have come to the end of another journey.
Love lots of pets and stay happy. Remember, they are actually less harmful than humans.
Prof. Dr. Egemen Eroğlu