UF veterinarians
help cat survive “bobcat fever”

John Prosser, Ann Murray, Dr. Ashley Allen and Dr. Gareth Buckley visit with Franky in the UF Small Animal Hospital's emergency room on Jan. 7, 2011. Franky returned to the hospital as a happy, healthy cat following treatment in the fall for a deadly parasite.

By Sarah Carey

A 5-year-old domestic shorthair cat named Franky is at home in Micanopy with his
owners after successful treatment at the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital for an infection with a deadly blood parasite most people have never heard of — cytauxzoon.

It’s the first time UF veterinarians say they remember seeing, much less successfully treating, such a case.

UF veterinarians used a new treatment protocol they hope will help them save more animals diagnosed with cytauxzoon, pronounced Sie-Tow-Zoh-aN), also known as bobcat fever, in the future.

“This parasite is not that rare, but almost all animals afflicted with it die quickly, so we usually don’t see them here,” said Gareth Buckley, VetM.B., a clinical assistant professor and emergency and critical care specialist at UF.  Owned by John Prosser and Ann Murray of Micanopy, Franky first began showing signs of illness in mid-September.

“We were walking around our yard one morning and noticed Franky was behaving a little strangely,” Murray said. ”He was drinking out of the pool, crouched down. We thought we needed to get him to the vet, that maybe he had a bladder infection.”

Prosser and Murray took the animal to their veterinarian, Dr. Molly Pearson, who kept him overnight for observation. The following morning, Pearson called the couple and recommended they take the cat to UF, as his condition had deteriorated.

“We brought him over and saw Dr. Ashley Allen from the emergency service,” Murray said. “She helped us figure out how we needed to proceed.”

Basic bloodwork was performed and Allen, an intern in small animal medicine and surgery, noticed the presence of parasites in red blood cells. Further diagnostics by UF veterinary pathologists confirmed that the parasite was cytauxzoon.

“Dr. Allen actually drove to the pharmacy in the middle of the night, since the new treatment protocol we used called for antiprotozoal drugs we do not keep in stock,” Buckley said.

Franky remained very sick for several days. Veterinarians used diuretics to rid the cat of fluid in his lungs and administered oxygen for two days. Franky became anemic and experienced severe gastrointestinal bleeding that resulted in two blood transfusions during his weeklong hospital stay.

“He also had a low white cell count, probably due to infection,” Buckley said, adding that treatment with the antiprotozoal drugs, antibiotics and nutrition administered through a feeding tube continued until Franky’s condition slowly improved.

Franky’s owners had looked up cytauxzoon infection online and realized their cat’s illness could be fatal. Yet, they never lost hope.

“He was struggling hard, but we felt optimistic that Franky was fighting and staying alive,” Murray said. “It was touch and go for a few days, and Dr. Allen was wonderfully conscientious about keeping us informed and helping us understand the process. We knew that she and the other veterinarians were truly pulling for Franky’s recovery and that meant so much to us.”

Dr. Ashley Allen, a small animal medicine intern at UF, examines Franky while his owner, John Prosser, looks on.

Although she and Prosser have two other cats, Ann said Franky was the most “people friendly” of the three, and had never been sick before.

“That’s partly why we wanted to give him this chance,” she said. “We always hoped for the best and tried to do whatever we could for him.”

Soon after Franky went home, he began to improve dramatically, although it took a few days for his appetite to return to normal.

“Rechecks indicate that Franky is a happy, health cat with no long-term side effects,” Buckley said.

“The important thing is that although infection with this parasite happens when it happens, we want veterinarians as well as members of the public to know that we have now shown that we can successfully treat these cases.”

The protocol UF veterinarians used to treat Franky was reported at the American
College of Veterinary Internal Medicines annual meeting, during a presentation Allen attended.

“Luckily, Dr. Allen was in that talk,” Buckley said.

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January 2011

Alumni gather at NAVC

This year’s NAVC alumni reception featured a video of the new UF Small Animal Hospital, which included a tribute to Dr. Colin Burrows.

New auditorium will support expanded programs

Construction of a new 160-seat auditorium is underway and expected to be completed later this year.

Dean’s Circle of Excellence inaugural luncheon held at NAVC

Heard about the Dean’s Circle of Excellence yet? The college recently held an inaugural luncheon and pin ceremony for the first “class” of members — significant donors to the college and the UF Veterinary Hospitals. Members include several CVM alumni, faculty members and even supporters who graduated from other schools.

Registration open for Bloodsport Investigations Conference

A conference focusing on the role of veterinary forensics in bloodsport investigations will be hosted by the UF CVM March 12-13.

...also in this issue



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