Although this is a few days late for National Cat Health Month, we wanted to spotlight a growing concern for cats in our area, and what we can do to help.
Our Director, Shonna was speaking to Dr. Chris at the Huntsville Vet Clinic this week, and learned that they have already seen two cats suffering from Cytauxzoonosis, more commonly known as ‘Bobcat Fever’, which makes this the earliest in the year they have dealt with this problem.
Cytaux is a tick-borne illness affecting felines, spread primarily by Lone Star Ticks. Bobcats are the ‘host’ animal, and carry the disease. A tick will bite the affected Bobcat, and then carry the infection to domestic cats. Cytauxzoonosis is a horrible, painful disease with a sudden onset, and a cat can go from seemingly healthy to death’s door within 24 hours. Until very recently there were almost no survivors amongst domestic cats infected with the disease. Recent strides in veterinary medicine have pushed the survival rates up, and now, if the illness is caught early enough and treatment commenced immediately, a healthy cat can have an almost 60% chance of pulling through.
Bobcat Fever is present throughout a number of states with high tick populations but is on the rise at an alarming rate here in our own Madison County. The last two or three years have seen a steady increase of cases, while numbers remain low in nearby areas, such as Fayetteville and Rogers. Heavily wooded, rural areas see the most cases, where wild animals carry large numbers of ticks.
The first signs of illness are typically extreme lethargy and a disinterest in eating and drinking. The cat’s temperature will soar, sometimes as high as 106f, and often the cat will hide away. Another sign that we have personally noticed in affected cats is that their eyes will seem half-closed, slanted, and slightly puffy.
If you think your cat may have contracted Bobcat Fever, it is imperative to get them to a vet as quickly as possible so that treatment (which usually consists of strong antibiotics, pain management, and fluid administration) can begin immediately. If a cat is too sick to pull through they deserve a chance to be humanely euthanized, as death from Bobcat Fever is extremely painful.
All this can be very scary, and the obvious question is - how can I keep this from happening to my cat? The best answer is to avoid exposure to tick bites as much as possible. Indoor cats are obviously much less likely to contract the disease (although they can be brought into contact with ticks by another pet), and outdoor cats in wooded or rural areas are most at risk.
It is ESSENTIAL to use a good, high-quality tick prevention, especially throughout months when ticks are active. Frontline Plus and PetArmor Plus are two options, but our personal favourite is a 30-day topical product named ‘Catego’, which is new to the market but seems very effective in not only killing ticks AFTER they bite the pet but in REPELLING ticks to stop bites before they happen. This is the only product that repels ticks.
It is also helpful to treat yards and, if possible, surrounding areas with a pet-safe tick prevention product, and of course it is important to treat all other pets.
As a shelter we want to help by educating local cat owners about the disease, providing flea and tick medications to those in need whenever we are able, and by taking stray cats in need of care into our shelter and helping to spay and neuter. It takes a village to save our pets, and we are deeply grateful to all the donors, sponsors, rescuers, and volunteers that enable us to move forward with this work. If you see a cat in need, don’t hesitate to contact us, and if you would like advice or more information please feel free to call us.
Though unsigned, this blog reflects the beliefs and stories of everyone associated with the Shelter, and may be written at various times by staff, volunteers or board members.