Vets warn of tick-borne disease that could kill your cat

News 12 First at Five / Tuesday, June 25, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- You won't see many bobcats in Augusta, but if you have a cat, you could see a disease called bobcat fever.

"The cats are just miserable. They're very ill," Veterinarian Dr. Steve Knittel said.

It's a parasite spread through ticks, especially the Lone Star tick. It's the most common type in Georgia and was just discovered to carry the disease.

Dr. Knittel says if you don't catch it early, it could be deadly to your cat.

"By the time they come in, they're usually in real trouble. Unfortunately, most cats don't survive it," he said.

Knittel says he's already seen one cat die from it this month. With peak tick season from March to September, the time most cats spend outside, he's afraid he'll see more deaths before the season's over.

"Especially when after you've seen a couple, and you know what it is, you know you're gonna have to have that talk with people that their cat's probably not gonna make it," he said.

He says cats with the disease usually have jaundice in their eyes and skin, swollen membranes around their eyes and will be in pain at the slightest touch. But catching the disease in it's early stage can be tricky, and the treatment can cost anywhere from $800-$2000, leaving some pet owners with a near impossible decision between life or debt.

"The treatment is expensive and the chances for survival are low, so a lot of people don't opt to go ahead and treat them," he explained.

Dr. Knittle says there's no foolproof way to protect your cat, but keeping them inside, doing regular tick checks and using preventative medications like Frontline are all good.

Plus, if you have a dog, make sure they're taking some preventative tick medication so they don't spread ticks to your cat.

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