Though it remained local to the region for many years, Bobcat Fever has recently found its way into the Mid-Atlantic States and as far north as Pennsylvania.
What is Bobcat Fever?
|Malaria protozoa. Image: PLOS |
Biology, Creative Commons 2.5
Protozoan infections are parasitic diseases like malaria, giardia, lice or trichinosis. Odds are, unless you’ve traveled extensively, you’ve never experienced one of these.
The closest most of us come to a parasitic disease is when we volunteer at an animal shelter and see a kennel card declaring that a litter of kittens is being treated for giardia.
The difference between these parasitic diseases and Bobcat Fever is that the others have relatively low mortality rates. Not so for Bobcat Fever. In fact, until 2011, it was considered 100% fatal in domestic cats.
How is Bobcat Fever transmitted?
Ticks in turn pass the protozoa along when they latch onto a domestic cat.
Often, an infected cat won’t present with symptoms until a week or two after they’ve been infected.
Usually a general lethargy, loss of appetite and fever are the three main indicators.
Having a vet available who is equipped to handle Bobcat Fever is critical to a cat’s care. Every cat will need to have fluids administered, and possibly a blood transfusion as well. Nutrition is key to boosting the immune system and helping the cat fight the parasite attacking his body.
There may be complications that can spring up, and these may be every bit as dangerous as the Bobcat Fever itself.
Take loss of appetite as one example: a cat who is off his food for more than a day or so is in jeopardy of Hepadic Lipidosis, or fatty liver disease.
This can prove fatal to an otherwise healthy cat (just read Leo’s story to see how difficult this condition is to beat). But if the cat is already in a weakened state from Bobcat Fever, and it’s compounded by Fatty Liver Disease? You see where I’m going with this.
Thanks to the Veterinary School at the University of Missouri, there is now a course of treatment that improves a cat’s chance of survival to as much as 60%. The treatment involves a combination of antibiotic and antimalarial drugs, along with an anti-protozoal injection.
That’s a huge step in the right direction, but there are plenty of opportunities for treatment to fail. Often it’s because the owner has noticed and responded to symptoms too late for the animal to recover, even with this new treatment.
|Outdoor cats, |
If your cat does go outside and you live in an area where lone star ticks are prevalent, try to keep your grass cut and your bushes trimmed. And check your pet for ticks – even between the paw pads.
Perhaps the very best prevention is to read the heart-wrenching journey of one pet owner to save her newly-acquired kitten’s life. Evergreen found his way into the home of blogger Chrystal at Daily Dose of Dogs/Cats with your Coffee sometime in July, and he was covered in ticks.
She has journaled the rocky and uncertain road to his recovery on her blog, including the heartaches, fears and extraordinary efforts made to help this tiny boy pull through. As of this writing, it looks like he just might be in the 60% who make it.
Everly, as he is called, couldn't help it. She found him as a stray. In fact, Cheryl saved his life by bringing him into her home when she did - for he would certainly have succumbed to the disease on his own and without treatment.
But pet owners who live in areas where bobcats and lone star ticks live have the opportunity to save themselves the heartache by simply keeping their cats indoors - especially from March to September, the months cats are most likely to run into ticks.
Centers for Disease Control
University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine
National Institutes of Health Library of Medicine
Wikipedia and Wikipedia