Anaplasmosis in Cats: A Growing Concern


Tick-borne diseases are a well-known concern in dogs, but did you know that they can also affect our feline friends? Anaplasmosis, caused by the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum, is an emerging tick-borne disease that can cause serious health issues in cats. In this article, we’ll explore the causes, clinical signs, diagnosis, and treatment of anaplasmosis in cats, as well as prevention strategies to keep your furry friend safe. So, let’s dive in!

Cause and Transmission

Anaplasma phagocytophilum is transmitted through the bite of an infected Ixodes spp. tick, specifically Ixodes scapularis in the northeastern USA. The infection usually occurs after 24 to 48 hours of tick attachment. Cats that live in areas where these ticks are endemic and have outdoor access are at a higher risk of contracting anaplasmosis. It’s important to note that the same ticks can also transmit the disease to other animals, including horses, dogs, ruminants, and even humans. The bacterium infects blood neutrophils, forming intracellular inclusions known as morulae.

Clinical Signs and Diagnosis

The clinical signs of anaplasmosis in cats can be vague and non-specific, making diagnosis challenging. Cats may exhibit symptoms such as lethargy, anorexia, fever, and ocular abnormalities. Other less common signs include dehydration, tachycardia, abdominal discomfort, and occasionally, ataxia and hepatosplenomegaly. Laboratory findings may reveal hematologic abnormalities such as mature neutrophilia or neutropenia, lymphopenia, and sometimes mild to moderate anemia. Biochemical changes like hyperglycemia, hypercholesterolemia, and hypoalbuminemia or hyperalbuminemia may also be present.

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To diagnose anaplasmosis, a thorough microscopic blood smear review is recommended to detect the presence of morulae in the cytoplasm of neutrophils. PCR analysis of peripheral blood can also be used for diagnosis. It’s important to note that a negative PCR result or the absence of morulae does not rule out exposure or infection, especially in cats that have already received antibiotic therapy. Serology tests can be useful in confirming exposure in chronic cases. Positive serology indicates exposure and not necessarily active infection.

Treatment and Prevention

The good news is that anaplasmosis in cats can be effectively treated with oral doxycycline. The recommended dosage is 5 mg/kg twice a day for 14 to 28 days. However, it’s essential to be cautious when administering doxycycline to cats, as it can cause esophageal erosion, inflammation, and stricture. To prevent this, oral doses should be followed with enough fluid to ensure the medication reaches the stomach. Side effects of doxycycline administration may include anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, and an increase in liver enzymes.

Preventing anaplasmosis in cats involves reducing their exposure to ticks and preventing tick bites. Limiting outdoor access is the best way to minimize the risk. If outdoor access is unavoidable, using topical acaricides or tick repellents and conducting daily tick checks can help prevent tick bites.

In conclusion, anaplasmosis is a growing concern in cats, particularly in areas where ticks are prevalent. Recognizing the clinical signs, diagnosing the disease, and providing prompt treatment are crucial to ensure the well-being of our feline companions. By following preventive measures and keeping a close eye on our furry friends, we can help protect them from this emerging tick-borne disease.

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For more information on feline health, visit Katten TrimSalon.