Risks of parasite-borne pet illness rise in summer

11:52 PM, Jul 1, 2013   |    comments
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Risks of parasite-borne pet illness

As summer weather settles in, the risk of ticks, fleas, and a host of other insect-borne problems rises right along with the temperatures. Veterinarians warn of the dangers of certain diseases in pets.

In recent years, Cytauxzoonosis has been getting more attention. The tick-borne illness, most often seen in some southern Midwest states, can be fatal in cats.

"It is a blood-borne parasite that is transferred by ticks," explained UT Veterinarian and Parasitologist Dr. Rick Gerhold. "The ticks pick it up from either feeding on wildcats, such as bobcats or other domestic cats that harbor it."

Gerhold says the disease can be very painful for cats, with very visible symptoms.

"Anything from fever, to having breathing problems, sometimes sudden death can occur," he listed.

Gerhold said there have been no confirmed cases of Cytauxzoonosis at the UT Veterinary Hospital, and he hasn't heard of any other Knoxville-area cases. Some cases have been reported in Chatanooga and Nashville.

He said cat owners should not panic.

"It's something that's on our radar, but it's not an end-of-the-Earth situation."

He does encourage pet owners to consider preventative options.

"I always tell people, keep your cats indoors. A cat is not going to get a tick bite if it's not outside," he said, before listing other helpful tips.

Gerhold recommends keeping your pets' preventative medicines up to date, and keeping your yard as tick-free as possible with short grass and pet food stored inside. 


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