Ask the Vet

Control Fleas in Cats

A high fever and no appetite are signs cats may have been exposed to a tick-borne disease.(Progressive Farmer photo by Mark Parker)

Question:

Our neighbor has had several barn cats die from a disease he believes they got from ticks. Do you know what this disease is and what we can do to protect our cats?

Answer:

There are many diseases transmitted by fleas and ticks. In this case, I suspect Cytauxzoon felis. It is a serious tick-borne disease discovered in Missouri in the 1970s. It has spread through the Midwest and Southeast since then. It is caused by a protozoan parasite transmitted by the Lone Star Tick.

Affected cats will be depressed, painful, have a high fever and stop eating. Many will die even with aggressive treatment. Tick control is crucial for prevention of this disease and others.

In my practice we've found fleas to be a more common problem for cats than ticks. But, control of both parasites is important. Just be aware that safe options for tick control in cats are more limited than for dogs.

The old fipronil products (Frontline and the generics) were safe flea and tick products for cats. We no longer recommend them because of decreased effectiveness on fleas.

Seresto collars provide flea and tick protection, but many outdoor cats will not wear collars or will lose them. Bravecto is a topically applied flea and tick product that provides up to 12 weeks of protection for fleas and ticks; however, it's not labeled to control the Lone Star Tick.

Talk to your veterinarian to help you choose the most effective product for your situation.

(SK)