Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Medical: Bobcat Fever is on the rise

There are many things Midwesterners are proud to claim, but sadly Bobcat Fever isn’t one of them. Unfortunately, here is where it originated: the first case of Cytauxzoonosis Felis, or Bobcat Fever, was documented in Missouri in 1976.

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
, Creative Commons 2.5
Ironically enough, it’s not a virus and it’s not a bacterial infection. It’s a protozoan infection.

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?

Through ticks – specifically the lone star tick. This particular tick transmits the disease from bobcat to domestic cat through its bite. Bobcats weather the disease faily well, then become lifelong hosts, transmitting the parasite to ticks through blood transfer.

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,
Wikimedia Commons
The absolute best way to prevent Bobcat Fever is to keep your cat indoors. There are some approved tick treatments out there for cats, but they haven’t been proven 100% effective in preventing tick bites.

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.
Science Daily
Centers for Disease Control
University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine
National Institutes of Health Library of Medicine
Wikipedia and Wikipedia


  1. Maxwell, I've nominated you for an award! Me-Ommmm

  2. Another excellent post filled with very good information. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Never ever heard of dis awful disease. Tanks yoo for blogging dis. purrrrrrr.....

  4. brilliant post, simply brilliant...neither illness is to be taken lightly

  5. Great post. This has become a problem and it is a serious subject. Good job.

  6. We too have never heard of it. Always good to learn something new on the health front as you never know. Have a marvellous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

  7. Very interesting post. We'd never heard of Bobcat Fever. We're glad we stay inside and don't live in the west.

  8. Great post. Thank goodness researchers are making progress to combat Bobcat Fever and that Everly was one of the lucky ones :-) Now if they could just have similar success with the dreaded FIP!!!

  9. We had never heard of that. It's so fantastic you keep us up to date on everything. Thank you :) xxooxx

    Mollie and Alfie

  10. Bobcat Fever sounds scary! It's yet another reason for us kitties to stay indoors.

  11. We're glad you are letting people know about Bobcat Fever. It's something that people need to be aware of, and it seems to be mostly unknown... and very alarming!

  12. That sounds like a awful disease!!!
    Mes hopes it does not travel this far!

  13. This is very informative. Thanks for sharing.

  14. I did not know about Everly story what heartwrenching and hopeful. Ticks in are really bad prevention is upmost importance.

  15. We've never heard of it & we live in one of the areas you mentioned - Maryland. Thanks for letting us know about this disease. We are house cats, but we know of plenty of kitty who go outdoors. Just one more good reason to stay in.

  16. such a well written and informative piece. Thank you for sharing with us

  17. Thanks for sharing this info. We'd never heard of Bobcat Fever. If it is in PA, it must also be in VA. Mom says that she will keep a close watch on the three of us who go outside; though, she's never found a tick on any of us or noticed any in the yard. Purrs and hugs, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo


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