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 PETED01 Sunday January 28, 2007

Cytauxzoon felis

Holly Nash, DVM, MS
Veterinary Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.

Cytauxzoon felis is an obscure parasite, but we wanted to include it. The word cytauxzoon can be used as an uncapitalized adjective, so just think of the points you'd get from this word in ScrabbleTM. Wow, would you be able to impress your friends.

In the grand scheme of things, C. felis is a newly recognized parasite. It was first reported to cause disease in 1976. Since then, it has been reported from Florida, Texas, and up to Missouri.

C. felis is a one-celled parasite that infects cats. The life cycle has not been fully researched, but the parasite is believed to be spread by ticks. Cats are thought to be accidental hosts, i.e., not the usual host. It is diagnosed by seeing the organism in blood cells examined microscopically.

It infects blood cells, and cells of the liver, lungs, spleen, and lymph nodes. The signs of disease include listlessness, anemia, difficulty breathing, high fever, and jaundice. It is almost always fatal, and the cat dies in less than 14 days from the time the symptoms start. Until recently, there has been no known effective treatment; diminazene aceturate and imidocarb dipropionate have successfully treated a small number of cats. Intravenous fluids and other supportive care are also necessary.

Because there is no cure, tick prevention is extremely important. Products which contain the ingredients pyrethrin or fipronil are good choices. You may also want to keep your cat indoors during the tick season.

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