Cytauxzoonosis – Fatal Cat Disease Spread By Ticks
If you live in Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, or other southern states, you need to be aware of cytauxzoonosis. Cytauxzoon felis is a protozoan that wild bobcats carry. Your cat can catch it from a bite from an infected tick. Although it’s not fatal in bobcats, it is in domestic cats.
This protozoan infects your cat’s white blood cells, where it reproduces. When the white blood cells are full of these protozoa, the cells become too big to fit through small blood vessels, which blocks the vessels. This, in turn, decreases blood flow in your cat’s body.
Restricted blood flow causes many problems, including fluid in your cat’s lungs, severe anemia, and clotting abnormalities. Your cat can die of this disease within five days of being infected. Symptoms include decreased activity and appetite, a high fever, weakness, depression, jaundice (yellow discoloration of skin and gums), and rapid breathing. Right now there’s no cure for cytauxzoonosis. Treatment consists of intensive supportive care, as these cats are extremely ill.
Treatment for Cytauxzoonosis
Intravenous therapy to combat dehydration, feeding tube placement to provide nutritional support and oxygen supplementation are the usual treatments, along with pain medicine, if needed. Cats are also given antibiotics since their white blood cell counts are often very low, and medicines may be needed to prevent clotting abnormalities. Blood transfusions are given if the anemia is severe.
Right now prevention is the best remedy. Keep your cat indoors during spring, summer and early fall, and use a tick preventative every three to four weeks during peak tick season. Keep grassy areas mowed to keep the tick population lower.
To learn more, read Cytauxzoonosis In Cats, published by the Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences.