Cookies on VetMed Resource

Like most websites we use cookies. This is to ensure that we give you the best experience possible.


Continuing to use  means you agree to our use of cookies. If you would like to, you can learn more about the cookies we use.

VetMed Resource

Veterinary information to support practice, based on evidence and continuing education

Sign up to receive our Veterinary & Animal Sciences e-newsletter, book alerts and offers direct to your inbox.

News Article

Role of vector-borne pathogens in the development of fever in cats reviewed

There has been increasing identification of vector-borne pathogens in cats presented to veterinary clinics for evaluation of fever and the associated secondary effects, such as signs of depression and loss of appetite

An expert group from the USA, Spain and the UK, led by Professor Michael Lappin of Colorado State University, provide an update on infectious agents associated with fever in cats that are transmitted by arthropod vectors. Published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, their two-part review article focuses on common clinical and laboratory findings, and optimal diagnostic tests, treatments and strategies for prevention of a range of disease agents known or suspected to be transmitted by fleas (part 1) and ticks and sandflies (part 2). Throughout, they stress that prevention of vector-borne infections is always preferable to treating clinically ill cats, and note that there is mounting evidence to show that consistent use of products that either rapidly kill vectors or, preferably, prevent vectors from biting a cat, is desirable.

Links between specific disease agents and fever in cats are not always clear-cut. For example, evidence of exposure to Bartonella spp. has been found in cats in many countries around the world, particularly in regions with high humidity and fleas. Well-documented manifestations of bartonellosis in cats include cardiac (endocarditis and myocarditis) and ocular (uveitis) disease, but whether fever will occur is likely influenced by a complex interaction involving both host and organism factors. Nevertheless, Bartonella henselae is common in fleas and known to survive at least 9 days in flea dirt. Professor Lappin stresses that adequate flea control is imperative to lessen the risk of infection in other cats, dogs and, indeed, people, in whom this agent is the cause of cat-scratch disease.

Among the tick-borne agents associated with feline fever are Ehrlichia species. Less is known about the particular causal agents of ehrlichiosis in cats compared with canine ehrlichiosis, but fever, together with lethargy and inappetence, is a commonly reported clinical abnormality in cats with suspected disease. Professor Lappin suggests that testing for these intracellular pathogenic bacteria might be indicated for cats with such signs and points to the importance of using preventive products that either rapidly kill attached ticks or, ideally, stop ticks from biting in the first place.


Lappin, M.R., Tasker, S., Roura, X. (2020). Role of vector-borne pathogens in the development of fever in cats: 1. Flea-associated diseases. Journal of Feline Medicine Surgery, 22(1):31-39, doi: 10.1177/1098612X19895941

Lappin, M.R., Tasker, S., Roura, X. (2020). Role of vector-borne pathogens in the development of fever in cats: 2. Tick- and sandfly-associated diseases. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 22(1):41-48, doi: 10.1177/1098612X19895942

Article details

  • Date
  • 10 January 2020
  • Source
  • SAGE
  • Subject(s)
  • Dogs, Cats, and other Companion Animals