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Feline Tick-Borne Rickettsiosis
Rickettsia spp are obligate intracellular gram-negative bacteria that are divided into the spotted fever group and the typhus group. In the United States, cats can be infected by Rickettsia felis and have been shown to have antibodies against R. rickettsii, which is tick-borne.47 In Spain, R. conorii and R. massiliae antibodies were found in cat serum and DNA amplified from cat blood, suggesting that cats could play a role in the life cycles of these agents or be clinically affected.48 In one study of cats with fever, we showed R. felis and R. rickettsii antibody prevalence rates in cats in the United States to be 5.6% and 6.6%, respectively, but DNA of neither organism was amplified from blood.47 These results prove that cats are sometimes exposed to spotted fever group organisms but further data are needed to determine significance of diseases associations. Because clinical illness in cats from spotted fever organisms has not been documented, optimal treatment is unknown. Based on results in dogs with R. rickettsii infection, however, doxycycline or a fluoroquinolone would be logical choices. The evidence for spotted fever agents in cats in the United States and Europe provides further evidence that acaricides should be used in cats as these agents can cause zoonotic infection in humans.
Conclusion
Tick control is warranted for cats as well as dogs. Products with efficacy against fleas should also be used because fleas can be vectors for several Bartonella spp, potentially the hemoplasmas, potentially Coxiella burnetii, (Cypress), R. felis, and Yersinia pestis.
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An Urban Experience
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