Ticks can spread disease to cats including cytauxzoonosis, commonly called bobcat fever. Bobcat fever is not very common but cats over much of America are exposed to it. The type of tick responsible is the Lone star tick (Amblyomma americanumm).
Unlike fleas ticks don’t jump onto animals as they pass by. They crawl onto the animal from grass or plants. They sense a warm blooded animal is passing.
Ticks usually fasten onto the cat’s skin in the area of the ears, between the toes and perhaps the armpits. An infested cat may have many ticks attached to him/her.
When the tick drinks the host’s blood its saliva can get into the host’s bloodstream transmitting disease.
A female tick will take a blood meal between 5-20 hours after mating on the cat’s skin. The time before that is a window of opportunity to remove the tick and avoid infection. Speed is of the essence in prevention.
Cytauxzoon felis is the protozoan that causes Bobcat fever and which is transmitted to the cat from the tick. It causes anemia in cats amongst other symptoms.
When the cat is infected the symptoms include:
- loss of appetite
- possible jaundice
- death is the usual outcome. Obviously outdoor cats are at risk. The disease can kill a cat in one week.
There is no accepted treatment for bobcat fever (cytauxzoonosis) and treatment success is low at about 25%. The usual treatment has been imidocarb dipropionate and diminazene aceturate.
However on the internet there is mention of an effective treatment at April 18th 2012, which is said to save about 60% of infected cats.
The persons behind the new treatment are Cohn and Birkenheuer of the North Carolina State University. It consists of administering the anti-malarial drug atovaquone together with the antibiotic azithromycin and supportive care.
Prevention is best: keep your cat indoors. But this is a balancing act between quality of life and health risks.
Bobcat fever (cytauxzoonosis) Sources:
- Science Daily
- Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.