Ticks may be tiny little insects but ticks on cats can cause big problems. This is because ticks on cats are parasites that will feed on your cat’s blood and because they can transmit serious diseases.
Diseases From Ticks On Cats
There are at least 15 different infectious agents and diseases that can be transmitted or produced by these tiny, little parasites. These diseases and infectious agents are distributed among eight different tick species that commonly infest only cats and dogs.
Most species of ticks have a four-stage development cycle – egg, larva, nymph and adult. Tick activity varies from region to region, depending on climate. As a general rule, ticks are most active when the weather is warm and humid. For example, in most areas the tick season will last five months — from May through September — though in places like Florida, ticks can live all year around.
Illnesses Caused By Ticks On Cats
The big problem caused by ticks on cats is the diseases they can transmit can be very serious. For example, ticks can transmit Lyme disease. This tick borne disease will most likely not affect the cat but it can affect you. Lyme disease is something of a phenomenon in the US, though it has been around for centuries. It gained its name from an outbreak of human Lyme disease in old Lyme, Connecticut in 1975.
Ticks can infect cats with three serious illnesses – Haemobartonellosis, Cytauxzoonosis, and Tularemia.
Haemobartonellosis And Cats
Haemobartonellosis is also known as feline infectious anemia or feline hemotropic mycoplasmosis. It targets the red blood cells that are responsible for carrying oxygen.
Haemobartonellosis is passed via tiny germ-like organisms called mycoplasma. When a tick feeds on an infected animal, it picks up these mycoplasma. When it next feeds on an animal – for example, your cat – it passes on the mycoplasma, which cause the Haemobartonellosis.
If your cat develops this disease, it can be slight or very severe. The symptoms of Haemobartonellosis often include dehydration, depression and loss of appetite. If the disease becomes serious, the cat may develop severe anemia resulting in weight loss, pale mucous membranes, weakness, jaundice, fast heart and respiratory rates and death. Some owners say that their cats actually start eating litter or dirt.
Haemobartonellosis is normally treated with enrofloxacin (Baytril) and ciprofloxacin.
Cytauxzoonosis And Cats
Cytauxzoonosis is a serious and possibly fatal disease that affects cats in the south central and southeastern parts of the U.S. It is caused by the organism, Cytauxzoon felis that is transmitted when one of two immature stages of the American dog tick feeds on the cat.
The symptoms of this disease are acute lethargy, depression, and anorexia. Cats infected with Cytauxzoonosis also often exhibit icterus, mucous membrane pallor, and dehydration. As the disease becomes more severe, the cat can suffer moderate to severe bronchointerstitial pulmonary disease and a fever ranging from 103 to 107 degrees.
There is no specific treatment for Cytauxzoonosis but a combination of atovaquone and azithromycin has proved effective in treating some cats suffering from this disease. However, a better answer is prevention – and that is to keep your cat free of ticks.
Tularemia In Cats
Tularemia is a fairly rate bacterial disease that affects birds, animals and people. It is sometimes called “rabbit fever.” Francisella tularensis bacteria cause the disease.
The ticks become infected through feeding on infected animals or birds. They then transmit the bacteria when feeding on the next animal – for example, your cat.
The symptoms of this disease may be loss of appetite, listlessness, and a low fever. If your cat is infected with Tularemia, it may develop abscesses at the site of the tick bite and have enlarged lymph nodes. After about a week, the cat will have discharges from its nose and eyes and will develop a rash. It may also develop internal abscesses in its spleen or liver.
To date, the best way to treat a cat with Tularemia has not been determined. However, some of the newer antibiotics such as enrofloxacin (Baytril) and ciprofloxacin may be effective.
Protective Medications For Ticks On Cats
If you live in tick country, there are a number of things you can do to protect your cat from a tick infestation. The products available to combat ticks fall into two categories — topical anti-tick treatments and flea and tick collars.
The best time to treat your pet with one of these medications is at the beginning of flea and tick season.
One of the most popular flea and tick treatments is Frontline Plus. It is a monthly, topical cat flea and tick medicine that its manufacturer says will kill 100% of all ticks within 48 hours. Frontline Plus has an insect growth regulator (IGR) and it is said to be effective against all stages of the deer tick, which is the prime carrier of Lyme disease.
A second treatment for ticks on cats is K9 Advantix. It is also a once-in-a-month topical treatment that its manufacturer says will kill 98% to 100% of ticks within 12 hours and will continue to protect the cat for at least four weeks.
BioSpot for cats is a third topical monthly application that will kill and repel ticks. It also contains an insect growth regulator to eliminate ticks for about a month and to prevent re-infestation. Other popular topical tick treatments include Promeris for Cats and Advantage Multi.
Flea And Tick Collars
An alternative to these topical medications for preventing cats on ticks is a flea and tick collar. You can find a wide selection of these at your pet store or even in your local supermarket. For example, Hartz makes the UltraGuard Reflecting Flea and Tick Collar that the company says will kill ticks for seven months. A second flea and tick collar is the BioSpot Flea and Tick Collar for Cats and Kittens. It is said to offer eight-month tick protection and will kill even those ticks that carry Lyme disease. A third alternative is the Zema Dual Action Flea & Tick Collar for Cats.
If you do choose to protect your cat with a cat flea and tick collars, do keep in mind that they contain very powerful insecticides and could actually harm your cat.
Before you choose one of these anti-tick treatments, be sure to consult with your veterinarian. He or she will recommend the medication or collar that would be best for your cat, depending on factors such as its age and weight.
Ticks on cats are no fun. But there is good news and that is the fact you can protect your cat from these blood-sucking, little parasites at low cost – and keep your cat happy and tick free.