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Tick-Borne disease poses threat to cats

Posted on Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Cat climbing treeA local resident who recently lost her young cat to a tick-borne disease affecting cats wants to warn others about Cytauxzoonosis.

It’s nicknamed “bobcat fever” because it is transferred from bobcats to domestic cats by Lone Star ticks. While it does not seem to be serious to the bobcats, it is very deadly to a domestic cat and can kill them within a week. It is not transmitted by a bacteria or virus, but is caused by Cytauxzoon felis, a blood parasite transmitted from bobcats to domestic cats.

Some very early symptoms are sluggishness and loss of appetite. Without treatment, it causes organ failure. A researcher and veterinarian at North Carolina State University, Leah Cohn, refers to the disease as the “Ebola virus for cats” because it causes a fast, painful death.

Dr. Cathy Warden of Highland Rim Animal Clinic says that she’s talked to people at North Carolina State University who are looking hard at the disease. The key seems to start treatment on the cat early. Dr. Warden has already seen two cases of bobcat fever this year, but she says there seem to be more cases toward Lewisburg, Cornersville and north.

She noted some symptoms include the skin of most cats turning yellow with the disease and sometimes a tick will be found on the cat. Additionally, most cats won’t eat if they have a fever.

“The sooner we see them, the better,” Dr. Warden said.

“I first became aware of this disease when my favorite cat, Tigger, who was only a year old, began acting lethargic on a Saturday,” said Laurel Galloway of the Petersburg area. “By Monday morning, he was a very, very sick cat … I had him at the veterinarian as soon as they opened.”

Even with a very expensive treatment, he had less than a 20 percent chance of survival, she was told.

“I couldn’t put him through that. I had him euthanized,” she said.

Galloway said Tigger and his sister had been abandoned last summer and her son found them, stuck them in his pocket and took them home on his motorcycle.

“They were so small we had to bottle raise them. Tigger was a beautiful gray tabby with a deafening purr,” she said. “Unlike most cats, he loved water. He’d go for long walks with me and our Doberman and Great Pyrenees around our farm.

“The only way to guarantee that cats don’t get bobcat fever is to keep them inside, but some websites and my vet said that keeping Frontline or some other type of tick treatment on them does help. While treatment for bobcat fever is advancing, still prevention is obviously preferable,” said Galloway.

Julie Montgomery, doctor of Natural Health, Holistic Therapy Services in Fayetteville, agrees that getting help for the cat right away is key to solving the problem, “as it is a swift moving disease,” she said.

Holistic Therapy Services uses herbal and holistic remedies and other alternative therapies.