What are Anaplasmosis?
If you spot any of the symptoms of anaplasmosis, take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your cat will need to be treated with antibiotics in order to regain his health, and the longer you wait, the more severe the infection may become.
Anaplasmosis infection is caused by the Anaplasma phagocytophilum organism. This organism cannot transfer between animals on its own, so instead it relies on a tick to act as a vector. Ticks that bite into an infected animal can carry this infection and pass it on to the next animal they feed on. Cats that reside in the northwestern or southern United States are at a higher risk, since these are the main areas where the ticks are found. After the bite, your cat may not experience any symptoms for one to two weeks. At that time, he may begin to develop a fever, lose his appetite, and find it difficult to walk because of sore or swollen joints.
Symptoms of Anaplasmosis in Cats
If an infected tick has bitten your cat, the symptoms of anaplasmosis may not appear for up to two weeks. Once the illness begins to sets in, some of the symptoms you may notice include:
- Sore or stiff joints, which may make it difficult to walk
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Causes of Anaplasmosis in Cats
Anaplasmosis is caused by an organism known as Anaplasma phagocytophilum. But, this organism cannot travel from animal to animal without the help of a host. Ticks can spread the infection from animal to animal if they bite an infected animal and then bite another uninfected animal. The ticks that transport this infection are found in Europe and in the southern and northwestern United States.
Diagnosis of Anaplasmosis in Cats
If you notice your cat exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Describe the symptoms in detail and let the vet know when you first started to notice them. You should also let your vet know if your cat spends a lot of time outdoors since this infection is spread by ticks.
The vet will most likely begin the examination by conducting a complete blood count, blood chemistry profile and urinalysis tests. The results of these tests will show an abnormal level of white blood cells, which should indicate your cat’s body is fighting off some sort of infection. The vet will also perform a blood smear test, where he will look for signs of morulae, which are dividing cells that are present during the life cycle of the infection. Morulae may be difficult to spot, so it’s possible the vet may not be able to diagnose the infection during the first visit. In fact, many vets often suggest testing for anaplasmosis again in two weeks if the first sample is negative.
However, if morulae can be found within the first sample, the vet will issue an official diagnosis of anaplasmosis.
Treatment of Anaplasmosis in Cats
As soon as the vet can confirm the anaplasmosis diagnosis, treatment will begin. Oxytetracycline antibiotics are effective in treating anaplasmosis, so something from this family of medications will be prescribed to your cat. These antibiotics usually need to be administered every day for a period of four weeks to eliminate the infection from your cat’s body. Your cat may experience some side effects from the medication, including nausea and vomiting.
If your cat is experiencing swelling in his joints that make it difficult for him to walk, the vet may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory to help relieve these symptoms.
The vet may also thoroughly examine your cat’s body to see if there are any ticks hidden underneath his fur. If any ticks are found, the vet will remove them.
After the full dose of medication has been administered, your vet will ask you to bring your cat back in for a follow-up visit, so he can reexamine the blood.
Recovery of Anaplasmosis in Cats
Your cat’s condition will start to improve within 24-48 hours after the first dose of antibiotics, but that does not mean you should stop administering the medication. Be sure to closely follow the vet’s instructions and administer every pill provided to your cat.
Because anaplasmosis is transmitted by ticks, your cat can easily develop this infection again if he is exposed to an infected tick. Talk to your vet about the most effective tick prevention medications on the market to see which one you should use on your cat. Even though you are using tick prevention, you should still make it a habit to check your cat for ticks on a regular basis. If you find any, quickly remove them so they don’t have time to infect your cat. Keep your cat indoors as much as possible and limit his exposure to other animals to prevent another anaplasmosis infection.