Local vets warn tick-borne disease kills cats - WSMV Channel 4

Local vets warn tick-borne disease kills cats

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HARRISON, TN (WRCB) -

'Tis the season for ticks. The mild winter means ticks are out in full force. Local veterinarians are warning of an almost always fatal disease cats can get from them.

The deadly cat disease is called Cytauxzoonosis. It has a 100 percent fatality rate in cats. The Tennessee Valley is geographically right in the center of where it spreads: mostly in rural, wooded areas.

It's not new, but some local veterinarians say they're seeing an up-tick in cases.

"It's a horrible death. These cats hemorrhage and they are extremely painful," Veterinarian Dr. Darlene White with Wolftever Pet Hospital said.

White has been practicing in Harrison for 30 years. She'd never seen a case of the fatal cat disease Cytauxzoonosis until a few in the last couple years.

"Two of those have been in the past month, so that's what's really alarming. Ticks are terrible," White said.

It spreads when an American Dog Tick bites a bobcat, then later latches onto a domestic cat.

"We commonly do not see ticks on cats until the past few years, and I think it's with the warm mild winters that we've had, in combination with the tornadoes, especially in this area of Harrison with all these trees down," White said.

Ooltweah Veterinarian Dr. Kathryn Primm says she's just seen one case, and the cat was already dead.

"It's really the cat's immune system reacting to the presence of this parasite that eventually leads to the death of a cat," Primm said.

They say the best way to protect your cat is keeping it indoors. If you can't keep it indoors, check it frequently for ticks.

"Grooming them regularly, trying to get the ticks off before they bite is a really good idea," Dr. Primm said.

If you don't remove it in time, you'll notice if your cat's been infected. Not eating, troubling breathing and jaundice are signs to look out for.

"The cat comes in not feeling well, not eating, maybe it was fine a few days ago, has a temp of 105-106 degrees," Dr. White said.

They say to take your cat to your vet in case it's something else treatable, but if it is Cytauxzoonosis, they likely won't survive.

"They're doing a ton of research. They have some things kind of on the horizon that may be promising, but for right now it's 100 percent fatal," Primm said.

The disease does not travel from cat to cat, or from dog to cat. It only travels from bobcat to a domestic cat by a tick. Again, it is not wide-spread, but local vets say it is starting to show up in our area.

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