Cats that spend time outside in the tick-prone areas may get in contact with ticks and become infected with tick-borne diseases. Ticks carried in by people, or other pets can also infect indoor cats. Here’s all you need to know about the diseases that ticks can spread to cats.
How Do Cats Get Ticks?
It’s no secret that cats like to explore the outdoors. However, this can put them at risk of picking up ticks. Cats can get ticks from several different sources, including other animals, grass, and brush. Ticks will attach themselves to any suitable host to feed on their blood and become engorged with blood. Once a tick has had its fill, it will fall off the host and lay its eggs in the surrounding area. Ticks can transmit several diseases to cats, so removing them as soon as possible is important.
Fortunately, there are steps that cat owners can take to help prevent their pets from picking up ticks. For example, regular grooming can help remove ticks already latched on. In addition, using tick collars or spot-on treatments can help to deter ticks from attaching in the first place. Taking these precautions can help keep your cat safe from ticks and the diseases they may carry.
Tick-Borne Diseases In Cats And The Symptoms To Look Out For
Several tick-borne diseases can affect cats, some of which are deadly. The most common tick-borne diseases in cats include:
- Lyme Borreliosis
Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. These bacteria are carried by deer ticks, passing them on to the domestic cats while sucking their blood. Usually, it is the deer tick or the blacklegged tick that acts as the main vector of Lyme Disease. The tick must be attached to the animal for at least 48 hours to spread the bacterium to the cat’s bloodstream. Transmission is usually prevented if the tick is removed before this time.
Although cats may not show any signs of Lyme disease, keep a watch out for the following symptoms:
- Enlarged lymph nodes and joints
- Loss of appetite
- Sensitivity to touch
- Difficulty breathing
Cats may develop heart, joints, kidneys, or nervous system disorders in severe cases.
Lyme disease diagnosis is based on the patient’s medical history, symptoms, laboratory tests, and the exclusion of other illnesses. Depending on what part of the body is damaged, more testing may be required. All animals that show indications of Lyme disease must be treated with antibiotics. In most cases of limb and joint disease, there is a rapid response; however, the signs do not completely resolve in a large majority of animals. The infection may remain despite antibiotic treatment, necessitating a second round of treatment. When the condition affects the kidneys, heart, or nerves, additional therapy to help the afflicted organ systems is also necessary.
There is presently no Lyme disease vaccination available for cats.
Tularemia, often known as rabbit fever, is caused by bacteria carried by four different tick species (fleas may also transmit the disease). This disease frequently affects cats.
Common symptoms to look for include:
- Heavy tick infestation
- Sudden onset of high fever
- Swollen glands
- Poor appetite
- Nasal discharge
Other occasional symptoms include:
- Reduced mobility
- Increased pulse and respiratory rates
- Frequent urination
- Open sores in the mouth and throat
Multiple organs, including the lungs, liver, spleen, and lymph nodes, can be affected by blood infections. Collapse and death might happen in a matter of hours or days.
Tularemia is treated with antibiotics; unfortunately, there is no vaccine to prevent it. You can prevent Tularemia by keeping pets indoors and utilizing flea and tick treatment.
Treatment ought to be started as soon as possible to avoid death; however, treatment may be needed for a long time.
Control is challenging, and options include:
- Decreasing tick infestation.
- Confining pets to reduce predatory behavior.
- Getting a quick diagnosis and treatment.
Recovering animals develop long-lasting immunity.
It is caused by rickettsia organisms that live only inside other cells. Ticks carry the disease and get infected after feeding on infected animals like cats, dogs, etc.
- Swelling of the lymph nodes
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
In animals with all stages of ehrlichiosis, a decrease in platelet counts in the bloodstream is frequent. The significantly low platelet level can induce abnormal bleeding in an animal as the disease progresses, resulting in bruising on the skin and gums, blood in the urine or feces, or spontaneous bleeding from the nostrils.
Antibiotics are prescribed to treat ehrlichiosis.
Tick control is the most important preventive measure because ticks are the disease’s most common source. If at all possible, keep your cat away from tick-infested regions. Tick-prevention drugs are now available to keep your cat from being infested.
Some strains of Ehrlichia bacteria can be passed on to humans. Although the disease can infect animals and humans, transmission requires a tick; therefore, cats and other infected animals do not constitute a direct transmission danger in most cases. Infection in animals may suggest a higher risk of human infections in a given location due to tick exposure.
Cytauxzoonosis is a tick-borne disease that affects cats. Tick bites are rarely painful, so your cat may not display any visible signs of ticks. However, a single bite from the wrong tick might cause cytauxzoonosis, sometimes known as bobcat fever, in your cat.
Bobcat fever is a cat-specific infection spread by the Lone Star tick that damages the cat’s blood cells and circulatory system. It is by far the most dangerous tick disease for cats.
- High temperature
- Trouble breathing
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
Treatment is frequently ineffective, and infection can lead to death in as little as one week. Treatment with specialized medications, intravenous fluids, and supportive care is usually required immediately. Cats that recover from cytauxzoonosis may have the disease for the rest of their lives. Tack avoidance is critical because there is no vaccination available for this condition.
Ticks can also transmit anaplasmosis, a bacterial infection, to cats. Anaplasmosis is primarily prevalent, mainly in May, June, and October. The tick usually transmits anaplasmosis to the cat after 24 to 48 hours of attachment.
- Loss of appetite or anorexia
- Joint pain
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Weight loss
- Periodontal disease
- Neurologic signs
Treatment includes antibiotics, supportive care, and fluid therapy.
- Babesiosis (Piroplasmosis)
Protozoa, the tiny single-celled animal-like organisms, cause babesiosis. Ticks spread the protozoan parasite to mammals, where it settles in red blood cells and causes anemia.
- Pale gums
- Dark-colored urine
- Swollen lymph nodes
The cat may abruptly collapse and fall into shock in severe circumstances. No vaccination is available to protect against babesiosis, most commonly found in the southern United States.
Haemobartonellosis is a disease spread by ticks and fleas caused by an organism that attacks the red blood cells in the infected animal, causing anemia and weakness. Both dogs and cats are affected by this illness. Feline infectious anemia is another name for the illness in cats.
Antibiotics are provided for several weeks, and certain animals may require transfusions.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, you must take them to the vet as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment are crucial for the health of your cat.
When Should I Take My Cat To The Vet?
As a responsible cat owner, it is crucial to know when to take your feline friend to the vet. While cats are relatively self-sufficient, they can still suffer from various health problems. If you note any changes in your cat’s behavior, eating habits, or appearance, it is best to take them to the vet for a check-up.
As a general rule of thumb, it is always best to err on caution and take your cat to the vet at the first sign of any problem. Even if it turns out to be nothing serious, it is always better to be safe than sorry. If your cat is listless, has lost its appetite, or has difficulty using the litter box, these could all be signs of something wrong.
Additionally, cats should see the vet at least once a year for a routine examination. Regular visits allow the vet to catch any potential problems early and provide the necessary treatment. Taking your cat to the vet for regular check-ups can help ensure it lives a long and healthy life.
Can Ticks Transfer From Cats To Humans?
Ticks are commonly found on dogs and cats but can also attach themselves to humans. While it is generally agreed that ticks can transfer from animals to humans, there is debate over whether this is true for cats. However, evidence suggests that ticks can indeed transfer from cats to humans. For example, a study published in the journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases found that three out of four people infected with a tick-borne disease had been in contact with a cat within the previous two weeks.
In addition, ticks have been known to attach themselves to cats in such numbers that their weight can cause the animal to become lethargic and even collapse. Awareness of the potential risk of tick-borne disease is vital when interacting with cats and ticks is vital. If you encounter a tick on your cat, remove it immediately with a pair of tweezers. Be sure to wash your hands afterward, and keep an eye out for any signs of illness in your cat.