Ticks are becoming a more significant problem for people and pets. Changes in weather patterns have allowed some species of ticks that usually have only been a problem in the southern United States to migrate north.
Ticks can carry multiple infections, some of which are a problem for people and dogs only and some of which infect cats as well. Many people have heard of Lyme disease, which is a common tick borne disease of dogs and humans. Although cats do not usually get Lyme disease, they do get infected with Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Rickettsia (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever), and Cytauxzoonosis. These diseases frequently cause fever, pain and inflammation, arthritis, enlargement of the spleen, and changes in the blood. They can be fatal to cats.
Cats that go outside are most likely to be exposed to ticks. Because of their frequent and usually meticulous grooming, cats tend to have fewer ticks attach to their skin then dogs when infested. However, even one attached tick is enough to allow infection with these diseases.
What to do? Fipronil (Frontline Plus) is the only insecticide currently approved in the United States for use in cats for tick control. Selamectin (Revolution) is approved in dogs for tick control and is probably effective (off label) for tick control in cats as well.
I use selamectin (Revolution) in my own cats and most of my patients because this medication prevents heartworm infections in cats as well as fleas and most likely ticks. If I have a feline patient that goes outside and acquires a tick infestation then I add in the fipronil (Frontline Plus) monthly as well.
If you do need to remove a tick from a cat, use a tweezers and grasp the head of the tick and gently and gradually pull the tick out without twisting, which could leave the mouthparts remaining. Some people will apply alcohol to the tick body first, which may help speed the release of the tick.
I hope that using these tips you and your cat can enjoy the beautiful summer weather both parasite and illness free! Dr Sadek