Parasitic Infection of the Blood Vessels in Cats

Cytauxzoonosis in Cats

Cytauxzoonosis is a parasitic infection of the blood vessels of the cat's lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys, and brain. The protozoan parasite Cytauxzoon felis can also infect bone marrow and the developmental stages of red blood cells, thereby causing anemia. An uncommon disease, cytauxzoonosis typically affects feral and domestic cats in the south-central and southeastern United States.  

Signs & Symptoms of Cytauxzoonosis

Symptoms associated with cytauxzoonosis are usually severe, including:

  • High fever
  • Dehydration
  • Pale gums
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Yellowish skin (jaundice)
  • Enlarged abdomen due to splenomegaly and hepatomegaly

Causes of Cytauxzoonosis

The parasite is transmitted from the bite of an infected ixodid tick, which are known to roam in areas shared by reservoir hosts like the bobcat and Florida panther.      

Diagnosis of Cytauxzoonosis

You will need to give a thorough history of your cat’s health to your veterinarian, including the onset and nature of the symptoms. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination as well as a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and electrolyte panel.  

The bloodwork will typically reflect changes due to severe anemia caused by a combination of red cell membrane destruction (hemolysis) and hemorrhaging. In addition, the blood smear may reveal the erythrocytic form of the parasite, which is one to two micrometres in diameter, inside the red blood cells.   Splenic and bone marrow aspirate, meanwhile, are best used to identify to demonstrate the extraerythrocytic form of the parasite.  

Treatment for Cytauxzoonosis

Cats with cytauxzoonosis should be immediately hospitalized and given supportive therapy, which often includes blood transfusions.  

Unfortunately, most infected cats die within two weeks after showing initial signs of the illness. Moreover, cytauxzoonosis is not contagious to humans, but can be transmitted to other cats by blood or tissue inoculation.  

Parasitic Infection of the Blood Vessels in Cats originally appeared on petMD.com

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