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The Dangers of Ticks in Cats

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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If you have a cat, you may be familiar with ticks. And you're probably familiar with the many commercials and advertisements that encourage you to purchase products to get rid of ticks or prevent them from feeding on your pet. We place a lot of importance in preventing ticks in our pets because ticks are more than just blood-sucking arachnid parasites; along with mosquitoes, ticks are responsible for transmitting many diseases in cats. Some of these include:

Cytauxzoon. This disease is serious and usually fatal. Caused by a protozoan parasite, affected cats will show signs that include lack of appetite, depression, fever, anemia and jaundice. Most cats diagnosed with Cytauxzoon die within a week.

Relapsing Fever. This is an uncommon disease caused by a bacterial infection of Borrelia. Signs of this disease lead to the common name, intermittent and relapsing fevers, lack of appetite and lethargy.

Ehrlichia. This is a common disease transmitted by ticks. Ehrlichia is caused by a rickettsial organism and is characterized by anemia, low platelet counts, bleeding, fever, lethargy, neurologic disease and multiple leg arthritis.

Q Fever. This disease is caused by the rickettsia Coxiella burnetii. Most cats affected with Q fever do not show signs of illness but some become weak, develop diarrhea, fever and neurologic disease. In pregnant cats, spontaneous abortion can occur.

Tularemia. This bacterial disease is also transmitted by ticks and is most often associated with rabbits. Cats affected with the bacteria Francisella tularensis will show signs of fever, draining abscesses and may succumb to a bacterial blood infection.

Feline Hemobartonella. This blood parasite is not fully understood. Previously thought to only be transmitted by fleas, it is now thought to also be transmitted by ticks. Cats affected with hemobartonella typically develop anemia from excessive red blood cells breakdown, caused by the parasite.

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