Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Monday, May 2, 2011

Plague is Not Just a History Lesson

The plague I am speaking of (since that word does not imply a specific disease) is the bubonic/pneumonic plague.The bacteria that is responsible for this potentially fatal disease is Yersinia pestis. The difference between bubonic vs pneumonic is in the signs/symptoms and the mortality rate.  In cats,
these signs are often fever, lethargy, pneumonia and/or lymph node inflammation.  The "bubonic" form refers to lymph node enlargement and severe inflammation. The pneumonic form refers to the lungs. 

Many of you in other parts of the country (including my northeastern PA friends) may not be aware that we even have "plague" in this country. They think it's a thing of the past..that dreaded "Black Death." You know, the one of Middle Age lore where cats got blamed as "evil" and mass euthanized. What they didn't know was that it was carried by rodent fleas and killing the rodents primary predatory - the cat - was actually counter-productive!  It is transmitted by the bite of the flea, which often can go unnoticed.

For those living in the desert Southwest, this disease is very real. It's primarily a concern for cats that spend anytime outdoors. Dogs are at risk too. Since our pets are great little flea transporters you can see how this can pose a risk to other pets and humans.  This is a wonderful reason for pet owners in those states to use year round flea preventatives. We have some great ones out there now.  

It's also important to note that rabbits and some wild carnivores can also carry these fleas so hunters or others who come into contact with these species need to be aware of the potential exposure.

There are cases where humans have contracted it due to the pet bringing a diseased flea into the home, as well as a few where they acquired it directly from a cat via respiratory droplets. These cats have the pneumonic form.

Veterinarians practicing in these areas are aware that this needs to be on the differential list of possible causes of why kitty isn't feeling so good. In fact, vets are at risk in these states simply by doing their job. 

It was back in the news recently again: 
Plague cases in New Mexico

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