announced Friday that two domestic cats have died in the past month from a tick-borne disease called cytauxzoonosis.
Although the disease has been seen in other southeastern states, these are the first cases documented in North Carolina. The first cat was diagnosed in Moore County, and the most recent case was in Chatham County near Lake Jordan.
Cytauxzoonosis is transmitted when one of two immature stages of the American dog tick transmits the organism during a blood meal.
There are no clinical signs during the first 20 days of infection, when the organism is growing within blood vessels throughout the cat's body. The first signs are seen three to seven days before death occurs due to massive organ failure and bleeding disorders.
A sudden decrease in appetite followed by anxiety cries and profound weakness are the first signs that the cat is sick. Once these signs are noted, there is a window of opportunity to treat that is only 24 to 36 hours long. Successful treatment during the last 48 hours is rare.
Given the short clinical phase of cytauxzoonosis, preventing the tick bite is the only practical approach to this disease.
According to Dr. Jack Broadhurst, DVM, of Pinehurst, there are two things owners can do to protect their cat. The first is to apply a product to the cat's coat that will kill the immature ticks within the first 72 hours that they attach. Such a product is available through your local veterinarian and some pet supply stores.
Any product used must be labeled for use on cats, because products labeled for dogs are toxic to cats.
The second thing pet owners can do is to try and control the tick population. This is achieved by reducing other food sources such as rabbits, moles and voles.
To control the tick's ability to attach, grass should be cut short and bushes cut back so that the cat will not come in contact with the tick. Ticks are attracted to moisture, so cats should not be allowed outside following a rain or early mornings and late afternoons when the grass is wet.
Further information about Cytauxzoonosis can be obtained from your local veterinarian. The University of Georgia has an
Veterinarians should report any suspected case to the Vector Borne Disease Testing Lab at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. The phone number is
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