As a pet owner, there are certain health dangers you and your family face. WTOL told you about some of the risks in May. One woman says she wishes she had known these dangers before she went blind.
“I woke up one day and I couldn’t see out of my left eye,” said Janese Walters. “I looked in the mirror and I thought I had pink eye or something.”
Without any warning signs, the vision in Walters’ left eye went dark.
For more than a month, doctors were puzzled. They couldn’t figure out what caused the sudden blindness, until Janese told them about her pet.
“They discovered I had something called cat scratch,” she said.
As the name suggests, doctors say cat scratch disease is caused by a bacteria passed along by cats and kittens, through their saliva or even fur.
“Anything that is exposed to the cat’s mouth, including if you have a little scratch that the cat licks – that’s how you can get it,” said Dr. Kris Brickman.
Dr. Brickman says only about 40 percent of cats carry the bacteria, which isn’t harmful to them, but can be to humans.
“It can affect the eyes, because what it does is increases blood vessels that creates problems – called antinomies,” Brickman said. “It can also cause some liver problems and can get into the spinal fluids and create meningitis.”
Those with weak immune systems are at a higher risk, but Dr. Brickman says there is a simple solution.
“Basically, go play with your cats, but wash your hands afterwards,” Brickman said. “Don’t let them lick any open wounds, and try not to get bit by any cat.”
“It’s a big handicap,” Walters said of her eyesight. “There are a lot of things you have to do differently.”
She says she had no knowledge of cat scratch disease before doctors diagnosed her with it.
“I’m just lucky it didn’t transfer to my other eye,” she said.
She now wants her experience to be a warning to others – before it’s too late.
Walters says her experience has not stopped her from loving and owning cats and dogs, but she has become more aware.