I’m sure you have been to a vet before and s/he stressed on having and external and internal parasite control program, you wonder why this is important and think s/he want to make an extra coin from your visit. Today let me use this little case scenario to as well stress on the importance of controlling those little crawling creatures on your pet(dog;cat). They not only crawl and cause irritation on your pet but also bite causing micro-traumas on their skin which act as entry point of pathogens, they suck blood causing anaemia and malnutrition, flea saliva causes an allergic reaction to some dogs/cats (Flea allergy Dermatitis); they also transmit diseases to your pets.
Today in my clinical duty i was presented with a 7 months old female kitten with a history of chronic weight loss, not eating, occasionally vomiting and dullness; after examining the patient, she was really anaemic, with increased heart rate, fever (39.7°C) with matting around the perineum, the patient had a mild flea infestation with no ticks on her; basing on the clinical findings i tentatively diagnosed Feline infectious anaemia, commonly haemabartonellosis; a cat disease caused by a rickettsial organism called Hemobartonella felis and transmitted by a bite of an infected flea or tick, i.e. a flea/tick that’s bitten and sucked blood from an infected host. Once injected into the system of a healthy host, the organism infects the Red Blood cells of the host where they replicate and multiply. The host’s immune system responds to the infection by destroying the infected red blood cells, causing the anaemia.
Cats with the disease are presented with a history of not eating, dullness, chronic weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and also a history of the cat eating non food objects (pica) in a bid to supplement the body with iron for regeneration of new Hemoglobin.
Back to the case, after my tentative diagnosis i took a blood sample from the patient for microscopy and oooops!!! the diagnosis is confirmed to be Haemobartonellosis.
(Fig. 1 Haemobartonella organism on the surface of Red blood cell, Dr. Ngetich)
I then explained to the owner and informed her of the disease, the cause, transmission and the treatment options available. I had to admit the cat for a thorough treatment and constant monitoring considering she’s been sick for a course of over a week. Good news is that the disease if early diagnosed responds well to medication; if lately diagnosed when multiple organ failure has taken toll of the patient’s body no much can be done.
Ailments such as this and other vector borne diseases in pets especially dogs and cats can be effectively controlled by having a strict external parasite control program which includes washing your pets with medicated shampoos, acaricides, not forgetting to wash their kennels too, if your compound is infested fumigation is necessary to keep the fleas and ticks away, keep your cats indoor, this can be made possible by neutering your cat if you not to breed them.
Many products are available in the market for the control of the external parasites, work with your vet on the better product to use on your pets. Remember some products used on dogs can be poisonous on your cat. Be in touch with a vet.
(Dr. Ngetich BVM, UoN)