So-called “bobcat fever” is putting cats at risk. A reader asked me how to protect her cats from this disease. Here’s what I told her.
Q: I live in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and I’ve heard that a number of cats in our area are dying from a disease called bobcat fever. What can you tell me about it, and how can I protect my two cats?
A: The scientific name for this disease is a mouthful: cytauxzoonosis. It is a deadly condition spread by the bite of a tick, and although it’s known as bobcat fever, it can affect domestic cats and other wild cats, such as mountain lions. Infected cats cannot spread the disease to other cats or to humans or other animals.
The disease was first identified in Missouri, but the tick that primarily carries the infection, Amblyomma americanus, is now found throughout southeastern and south-central states such as Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Florida, all the way to the Atlantic coast and as far north as North Dakota.
Cats with the disease typically have an acute onset. In other words, they’re fine one day, and the next they don’t have any appetite, they seem lethargic and they have a high fever. The protozoal infection blocks blood flow to tissues and causes multiple organ failure.
Even with aggressive supportive care and treatment with a combination of antiparasitic and antibiotic drugs, which offer a better survival rate than previous treatments, approximately 40 to 50 percent of infected cats die within a week of infection.
The disease mainly affects outdoor cats. The best way to protect your cats is to keep them indoors so they are less likely to be bitten by ticks. If your cats do go outdoors, it’s a good idea to get tick collars for them from your veterinarian. The collar has a breakaway design, so it’s safe for cats to wear.
Read more, including how to protect your pets from the heat while traveling, in this week’s Pet Connection!