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Cats are notorious for their grooming regiment and for generally keeping themselves clean. But did you know that cats, like dogs, are also susceptible to ticks? And these nasty little arachnids (yes, they are arachnids like those eight-legged spiders) don’t just burrow themselves underneath all that fur and feed on your pet’s blood, but they also carry diseases that can make your cat dangerously sick.
Learn about common tick-borne diseases that typically infect cats so that you can give your little ball of fur the care it deserves.
Also called Piroplasmosis, it is caused by a single-celled protozoa called Babesia felis. It can be transmitted not just by a tick bite, but also through bites from an infected dog or cat. The disease attacks the red blood cells of the cat, causing anemia, and can go undetected for years.
Fever, enlarged lymph nodes, appetite or weight loss, dark urine, pale gums, and lethargy. The cat may also go into shock.
It is treated with anti-malarial medicine and antibiotics. Transfusions may become necessary if the cat is severely anemic.
Commonly known as Lyme disease, it is transmitted by deer ticks. The disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. For the disease to be transmitted to the cat, it takes about 48 hours. So early detection and removal of the tick is key.
Fever, low appetite, and swelling in the joints and lymph nodes. If the infection is severe, it may affect your cat’s heart, kidney, and nervous system.
The treatment is usually a course of antibiotics ingested orally.
Also called bobcat fever, Cytauxzoonosis is a severe tick-borne disease that has a low recovery rate. It is caused by Cytauxzoon, a parasite, that can cause hemorrhaging and death. Cats who survive the infection end up being lifelong carriers. The good news is the disease is fairly uncommon.
Low red blood cells or anemia, dehydration, trouble breathing, high fever, jaundice, and depression.
To be effective, treatment must be immediate and aggressive. It involves a combination of anti-malarial and antibiotic drugs, IV, and supplementary care.
It is relatively uncommon among cats. It is a rickettsial disease caused by Ehrlichia canis and Ehrlichia risticii. These bacteria are parasitic in nature and eventually destroy the infected cells.
Appetite loss, weight loss, diarrhea, fever, swollen lymph nodes and joints, fatigue, depression, trouble breathing, eye discharge, and vomiting.
Antibiotics are the primary recourse. If the infection is severe, transfusions, IV fluids, and other options may have to be pursued.
Also called feline infectious anemia, the disease is caused by Mycoplasma haemofelis, which affect the red blood cells of the cat.
Mild or severe anemia, depression, appetite and weight loss, heart palpitations, breathing problems etc.
It is treated with antibiotics over the course of at least three weeks. In severe cases, blood transfusions maybe required.
Tularemia or rabbit fever is caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis which is carried by four different types of ticks.
Swelling in the lymphatic nodes, high temperature, discharge from nasal cavity, pus build-up at the bite site, mouth ulcers etc.
Though a blood test can be used to diagnose the disease, the results usually come too late. Without a definitive diagnosis, it is treated with generic antibiotics. In most cases of feline tick-borne illnesses, administration of antibiotics is the foremost treatment protocol. But as a cat owner, the most important thing you can do is prevention and control. So inspect your cats regularly for ticks and, if yours is an outdoor cat, make sure to inspect it every single time the cat comes back from a trip outside.