Tick-Borne Diseases in Cats (April 2019)

Happy Monday, everybody!

Last week we spoke about tick-borne diseases in dogs because summer is coming up fast, so now it’s time to go over tick-borne diseases in cats.

Most cat parents don’t have to worry about their indoor-only cats having ticks, but they can travel and get inside even if your cat never goes outdoors.

Either way, being informed is your first step of defense in practically anything.

Haemobartonellosis

This potentially deadly tick disease in cats is also known as feline hemotropic mycoplasmosis and feline infectious anemia.

It’s the most common tick disease in cats to date, which attacks the body’s red blood cells. In short, because the red blood cells are affected, the body’s oxygen supply is restricted.

This tick-borne disease comes from mycoplasma, which live inside a cat’s red blood cells.

This disease can be transferred through blood contact. For example, a mother cat can pass the disease onto her kittens through the placenta. It can also be transferred through a bite, as well.

Unfortunately, the range for this disease can be vast. Either it will be very mild or will cause severe anemia.

Symptoms include dehydration, white gums, accelerated respiration and heart rates, loss of appetite, depression, jaundice, and, if untreated and it’s severe, death.

Ehrlichiosis

This disease is a bit different from other tick-related diseases in cats. It’s caused by rickettsial organisms and enters the cat’s body, acting as if it was a parasite.

Symptoms include depression, lethargy, weight loss, loss of appetite, discharge from eye(s), swollen and inflamed joints, enlarged lymph nodes, breathing difficulties, anemia, pale mucous membranes, fever, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Cases of this disease have popped up all over the world. Unfortunately, without treatment, cats will die from the death of their cells.

Tularemia

Also called rabbit fever, this tick-borne disease in cats is caused by the American dog tickLone Star tick, Pacific Coast tick, and the Rocky Mountain wood tick.

It’s commonly referred to as rabbit fever because a cat can become infected with the disease from not just ticks, but from preying on rodents and rabbits that have the disease, too.

Like the previous disease, the severeness of the disease will range. A cat can have a mild form and show no symptoms, or they can get smacked with every symptom in the book.

Symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, abscesses located on the tick bite, GI ulcers, mouth ulcers, loss of appetite, nose and eye discharge, lethargy, internal abscesses in the liver and spleen, and a bad rash.

You need to understand that this a tick-borne disease in cats that can be transmitted through a bite or a scratch to a human, however.

Cytauxzoonosis

Also known as bobcat fever, this tick-borne disease in cats runs rampant. It infects both the tissue and the blood of a cat through a very destructive process that can cause a cat to hemorrhage and die in as little as 3 weeks.

Caused by Lone Star ticks in particular, the tick will feed on a bobcat’s flood, molt into the next life stage, and then seek out another host. A cytauxzoonosis infection is the result of one of these ticks feeding on a domestic cat after feeding on a bobcat.

Symptoms include severe anemia, loss of appetite, pale gums, dehydration, difficulties in breathing, jaundice, depression, and lethargy.

Unfortunately, the majority of cats who develop the infection will die, and those who survive from it have a high chance of the infection recurring.

Babesiosis

This is a rare tick disease that affects and infects on an entire spectrum. It can occur through a tick bite, blood transfers, through the placenta, and through both cat and dog bites.

The majority of cases seen by vets are very mild ones with little to no symptoms. More often than not, this disease can go undiagnosed for months, if not years.

Symptoms include loss of appetite, pale mucous membranes, lack of energy, jaundice, weight loss, and anemia.

However, this tick-borne disease in cats can cause immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, so just because it’s usually mild, this does not mean you should take this disease lightly.

Preventing Tick-Borne Diseases in Cats

Keeping your cat indoors isn’t always an option, especially if they are a primarily outdoor cat.

Searching for ticks whenever your cat comes back inside is the best way to quickly identify a potential tick bite. If one is present, take them to the vet and have them tested accordingly.

You can also use topical treatments and speak to your vet for more preventative methods that will work best for your cat as an individual.

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