Do you think cats are immune to diseases? Well, if you do think so, you are not right. Though cats certainly have better immunity compared to dogs, they are not as safeguarded as you may think, especially from ticks. In fact, there is this one tick-borne disease in cats which is constantly on the rise in 17 states of the USA i.e. Cytauxzoonosis.
What Is Cytauxzoonosis in cats and how is it caused?
Cytauxzoonosis is a fatal vector-borne disease caused by ticks in cats. The disease was first reported in 1976 in the United States when a protozoa Cytauxzoon felis emerged as a blood cell infecting organism in cats. It was then that the researches figured out that the bite of an Amblyomma americanum (Lone star tick) caused the transfer of this protozoon into the felines. Studies also revealed that bobcats are the natural host of this organism and the disease can easily pass on to other cats through the ticks present on them. However, an infected cat cannot directly transfer the infection to another feline. For that, it needs tick to bite the other cat.
Where is Cytauxzoonosis prominent?
Well, in the United States this infection is gradually expanding into almost all the regions including south-central, central, south-eastern as well as some mid regions of the Atlanta. Besides, weather and climatic changes are also one of the major reasons for its spread in other parts of the country.
What are the symptoms of Cytauxzoonosis in cats?
When a lone star tick bites a cat, it, in turn, deposits the parasite into the skin by creating a wound. This wound festers within 5-14 days and the infected cat starts showing symptoms like:
- Increasing Fever
- Enlarged liver
- Swelling in lymph nodes
- Difficulty breathing due to water deposition in lungs
- Coma in extreme conditions
If at all your cat shows even the slightest signs of cytauxzoonosis, you must rush to the vet for her treatment.
How Is Cytauxzoonosis Diagnosed in cats?
A blood test can easily reveal the changes in blood cell and platelet counts. If there is any decrease in the number, it directly indicates the presence of infection in the blood. After ascertaining the presence of a foreign organism, a biochemistry test on a blood smear helps in revealing the presence of felis in the system.
In the case of enlarged lymph nodes or selling in the liver or spleen, a biopsy is conducted to identify the organism. Other than this, PCR test can also help in diagnosing the parasite.
What is the treatment for Cytauxzoonosis in cats?
With the increased awareness and early detection, the disease can be treated with 60% chances of the infected cat to survive. However, the cat must be brought to the vet as soon as the symptoms show up.
A vet may recommend hospitalization and treat the cat with intravenous drugs and injections. Well, it may take several weeks for the cat to recover if she survives through the infection. However, even after successful recovery, she may still test positive for the disease as the strain never really goes out of the body. In fact, the treated cat then becomes the carrier or reservoir of this disease. This is how vicious the disease is. Therefore, prevention is better than curing this disease.
How You Can Prevent A Cat from Getting Infected?
- Cytauxzoonosis is caused by ticks so the best way to prevent this disease from happening in our cat is to administer tick preventatives to her. Tick preventative treatments help kill the existing ticks and further prevent their recurrence in the cat. Moreover, when these preventatives are taken year round, your cat stays protected from ticks no matter what season it is.
- Besides incorporating this tick control program, also try and keep the house as clean as possible and groom your cat regularly so she doesn’t ingest the tick while grooming herself.
- Check her bedding and wash it regularly. Vacuum your space at least weekly and keep the trash away from the house.
- Keep the yard shaved so the rodents, who are also the carriers of ticks, do not intrude in your surroundings.
Cytauxzoonosis is a growing illness in cats and is strengthening its roots in the US. So, as a pet owner, it is your responsibility to make every possible effort to prevent all the risks that may lead to the development of this disease. Let the cats stay safe and disease free because if not now, the disease would have killed millions of cats by 2020.