SOS: A tick wants to eat my cat!

SOS: A tick wants to eat my cat!

Lyme disease, which can cause permanent kidney damage and other complications, can spread to humans and dogs when they are bitten by a tick. What about cats?

April 3, 2019

It's not unusual for cats to be bitten by ticks but they don't appear to develop Lyme disease. That's the good news. However, cats aren't entirely off the hook when it comes to ticks. In fact, once they have attached themselves to a feline host, ticks can transmit infectious diseases within 24 to 48 hours.

Actions and reactions

If you find a tick on your cat, it's essential to remove it as quickly as possible using specialized tick pincers (if you have them) or by pulling carefully but firmly on the parasite with eyebrow tweezers, taking care not to crush the parasite."

“It's also important to carefully clean the animal's wound and monitor its health over the following days to be sure that no complications develop,” explains Dr Caroline Kilsdonk, president of the Order of Quebec Veterinarians (OMVQ).

Health professionals recommend placing the tiny parasite in a closed jar so that it can be analyzed in a laboratory which is the best way to find out if it's carrying infectious pathogens. These can include Mycoplasma haemofelis (also known as Haemobartonella) which targets red blood cells and can cause feline infectious anemia (FIA), a serious disease that is fortunately treatable with antibiotics.

Don't panic!

As frightening as this may seem, there's no need to panic, according to Dr Kilsdonk, because the risk of infection is slight. “The area around the bite may swell, there may be a bump and it may leak,” she adds. “In rare cases, an infection can cause fever, vomiting or diarrhea. But in almost all instances, the cat is unharmed.” Which also goes for the people who live with them. “Once the tick has bitten—and has eaten its fill, it's extremely unlikely that it will attack another animal or a human being.”

Cases involving indoor cats are very rare. To prevent outdoor cats from being bitten by ticks, anti-parasitic products are recommended during high-risk periods—notably whenever outdoor temperatures exceed 4ËšC. “Topical insect repellents which prevent ticks from attaching themselves to animals, are an option,” adds Dr Kilsdonk, “as well as orally administered medications which act as a type of poison to kill the tick once it's bitten a protected animal.” To select the most appropriate product for your pet, and make sure you use it properly, it's best to consult a veterinarian as certain products can be harmful to cats.

Petting and prevention

Cats can display a range of reactions to tick bites. Some cats will scratch the infected area frantically while others may show no sign that a parasite has lodged itself under their skin. For this reason, it's a good idea to examine your cat regularly and check for lesions. Stroke them all over and carefully inspect their skin and fur.

“This will alert you not only to the presence of a tick but also to possible tumours, infections, wounds and other health problems,” says Dr Kilsdonk—proof, if you've ever needed any, of why it's important to pet your cat every day!

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