Tick Borne Diseases in Cats

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With warm weather comes all sorts of parasites and other types of pests that may bother your cat. One parasite that does not receive much attention in cats is that of the tick. In order for ticks to survive they must ingest animal blood.

Nymphs need this blood in order to develop from larvae to an adult. Female ticks need the blood in order to mate and lay eggs. We have often heard about them on our dogs quite often but not cats.

How does a tick going about getting this blood from a cat? They usually attach themselves to the cat and then start feeding on the blood.

You would think this would be a problem in and of itself, but the real problem comes when the tick is carry an infectious disease because this disease will be transmitted to the cat. At this point it enters the blood stream and proceeds to reproduce itself.

The following are some of the diseases that can be transmitted to the cat from a tick:

Babesiosis. This disease is caused by the Babesia felis parasite that cats may get from a tick. Symptoms can appear two weeks after exposure but many times the case remains mild; because of this it may go undiagnosed for years.

Some of the symptoms are weight loss, lack of energy, jaundice, and anemia. Treatment consists of an anti-malarial drug with an antibiotic.  If the anemia becomes too bad, a cat may need a transfusion.

Bobcat Fever (Cytauxzoonosis). This is one of the worst diseases your cat may get from a tick. It can cause death. It infects both the blood and the tissues of the cat.

It is very destructive and within three weeks of getting it, the cat may hemorrhage and die. Ticks get this by feeding on bobcats that carry it and then transferring it to cats.

Its symptoms are high fever, loss of appetite, jaundice, severe anemia, dehydration and lethargy.  Although it can be fatal, if the cat is treated promptly with antibiotics and an antimalarial drug, they may survive.

Rabbit Fever (Tularemia). Ticks usually get this by feeding on infected birds or animals and then transmit it to the cat. Cats may also get this when they prey on an infected rabbit or rodent.

The symptoms for this can be none at all to mouth ulcers, high fever, GI ulcers, and loss of appetite, rash, nose discharge and enlarged lymph nodes. No good treatment has been found for this because it is usually not diagnosed until they die from it.

Preventing Tick-Borne Disease in Your Cat

Since all tick-borne diseases have the potential to be fatal, most vets recommend not exposing your cat to ticks. This means you should keep your cat inside.

If she goes outside, it should be under your direct supervision. If you do allow your cat out it should be for a walk and you should have them on a leash.  Make sure you brush their coat often and search for ticks. Remove them if you find any.

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