New Cases of Bobcat Fever Prompts Tick Control Warning

Cytauxzoonosis, a parasitic blood infection also known as “bobcat fever,” has been linked to several cat deaths in Mississippi.

Posted: September 17, 2007 5 a.m. EDT

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Knowledge is the strongest weapon for owners to prevent Bobcat Fever
Cats need tick control to prevent a fatal disease that has recently spread through much of the south and eastern seaboard of the United States.
Although the disease is not new to the state, these cases have prompted veterinarians to stress the importance of tick control to pet owners.

“The key to protecting your cat is prevention because there is no cure for this disease,” said Sharon Grace, DVM, clinical professor at Mississippi State University (MSU) College of Veterinary Medicine. “Owners need to apply a topical product that will kill ticks that carry the pathogen.”

Even indoor cats need tick control because the American dog tick, the carrier of the disease which picks up the pathogen from an infected bobcat, can unknowingly be brought into the house by a human or a dog, she said.

The product must contain fipronil for tick control to be effective, Dr. Grace said.

Dogs cannot contract the disease and neither can humans. Also, infected cats cannot give the disease to other cats.

“This terrible disease is difficult to diagnose and treat, fatal in most cats, and hard to observe in a patient dying of it,” she said. “The goal is to identify the disease early enough so that the veterinarian can humanely euthanize the cat to prevent further suffering.”

Symptoms, which can be confused with other diseases such as mycoplasma, toxoplasmosis and feline infectious peritonitis, include becoming depressed and listless, and refusing to eat and drink. Cats can look jaundiced and have a paleness around their gums, nose and eye tissue. An extreme fever as high as 108 degrees is the most observable sign, according to MSU.

Cytauxzoonosis, which was first discovered in Missouri and eastern Oklahoma in about 1973, is being reported more often and is moving boundaries.

The seasonal movement of bobcats and ticks has distributed the disease through much of the south and the eastern seaboard of the United States. There is evidence the disease is also moving north, Grace said.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions and more research is needed to get a better understanding of the disease, Grace said.

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Reader Comments

Angela    Bentonville, AR

9/24/2014 8:40:27 PM

We just found out today that our sweet Patches has the disease. I have cried so hard, and I keep praying she will make it through. She is the most precious Calico Persian Kitty ever and she loves the outdoors. I know we have bobcats and a mountain lion in the area. I had never heard of this disease until today and I am so in shock.:( I know now what must have taken our other sweetie Tink back in November 2013. I have faith in our vet, and I know she is doing all she can for Patches. I can't loose her. She has been with us for 6 years now, and she is so loved. I am so sorry for all the losses I have read about on here. And I pray your hearts heal soon. God Bless. Keep us in your prayers. I also pray for a vaccine. This is nuts. They have a vaccine for everything else, why not this.? Right.? In hopes for a cure.

Paulette    Billings, MO

6/9/2014 9:13:22 PM

We lost our beloved cat, Buster, to this horrible disease less than a week ago. April 29th he received his annual vaccinations and I had bloodwork done as a baseline. All his results were perfectly within normal range. May 28 was the last day he acted like himself.

The following day, he became very lethargic. I thought he felt a little warm, but it was late and I didn't want to take him to the only emergency clinic in Springfield, MO. (my first bad judgement call) He slept on my chest all night and I monitored how he was doing. He seemed better in the morning, and decided to call his regular vet to get him in for a temp check. The receptionist said she would tell his Dr. and get back to me.

After two hours, I called again, but could only get a busy signal, so I went over to the office. She was JUST THEN telling the vet, and by now, they were TOO BOOKED to see him, so the Dr prescribed flagyl based on the symptoms I gave her - possible temperature, lethargic, possible blood in stool and not wanting to eat or drink. I kept questing whether he should have his temp taken to see if he was running a fever.

The receptionist said, "you can bring him in his carrier and leave him and we will TRY to get to him". I asked how long it would take for the medication to show improvement and the receptionist said about 48 hours - that would be taking me into the weekend when they are not open. I decided not to struggle to put him in a carrier and just leave him there hoping he would be seen. (my 2nd bad judgement call).

That night, after midnight Friday, we took him to the Springfield Veterinary Emergency Clinic. He was diagnosed with the disease and the Dr on duty went into great detail to explain his chances were very slim, but we felt we owed it to him to give him a chance - he loved life too much. They started the same treatment as mentioned here, and it looked promising as each day went by that he survived.

The story is longer than this, but the end of the tale is that we had to allow him to cross over in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Not even one week.

This cat survived outdoors for nearly 8 years before we found him and took him in. He could not be imprisoned inside the house for more than the night to sleep and on really bad snowy or rainy days. He lived to be outdoors, hunting and visiting all the places familiar to him.

Eight years of bad weather, not knowing where his next meal would come from, living where coyotes lived and cars traveling at high speeds along the country roads - all to be taken down by one tick bite - and while he had his topical treatment.

I just pray they will find a cure or vaccine for this dreaded disease. The problem here is that the cats are not altered and the people are too poor to even get veterinary care, so who knows how many are dying out there within a few miles of me from this horrible, horrible disease. It just sickens me.

Diana    Oklahoma City, OK

4/30/2014 8:16:01 AM

Our beloved cat died today from this deadly fever. We are heartbroken. He only lasted three days, during which we sought medical help and tried herbal remedies. On the second day, we took him to OSU Vet Hospital where they administered the anti malarial drug, antibiotics, fluids, and oxygen, but he went into cardiac arrest this morning. This is the second cat we have lost in four years. My children are devastated. I pray they can develop a vaccine, which is the only way I can in good conscience have another cat. We have bobcats in the neighborhood and I'm afraid our cats live on borrowed time. But they are LOVED while they're with us and missed terribly when we lose them. God bless to all the grieving families.

Sara S    Lebanon, TN

9/10/2013 1:02:07 PM

We just lost our little Sheldon due to this horrible 'fever'.. We had no idea that this even existed, but I am now he||bent to tell ALL my cat owner friends about this and educate them to the best of my ability.

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