Date of Graduation

5-2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Department

Animal Science

Advisor/Mentor

Thomas, Lauren

Committee Member/Reader

Powell, Jeremy

Committee Member/Second Reader

Yazwinski, Tom

Abstract

Cytauxzoon felis is a protozoan pathogen that causes the infectious disease, cytauxzoonosis in wild and domestic felines. The natural host of this pathogen is the bobcat (Lynx rufus), which is why this disease is also commonly referred to as “bobcat fever”. The C. felis pathogen infects wild and domestic cats upon transmission by infected ticks. Amblyomma americanum, also known as the Lone Star tick, the primary transmission vector for C. felis. This tick species is largely populated throughout the state of Arkansas, making C. felis a large threat to wild and domestic felines in these areas. Cytauxzoonosis is commonly thought to lead to acute death in domestic cats because of its short and aggressive path of infection. However, recent studies have indicated a higher prevalence of asymptomatic ‘carrier’ cats that remain persistently infected and serve as transmission reservoirs in nature. Evidently, C. felis exhibits more complexity than what is commonly appreciated, perhaps due to the possible existence of various strains with different virulence characteristics. This study intended to determine the prevalence of persistently infected cats in northwest Arkansas along with potential risk factors for C. felis. Blood samples from eligible cats were collected by regional veterinarians and tested for the prevalence of C. felis DNA using genomic DNA extraction and PCR assay protocols. We also incorporated the use of surveys to identify general trends for the physical attributes, lifestyles, and health conditions of outdoor cats in northwest Arkansas. It was discovered that 18.2% of the sampled population tested positive for C. felis infections, proving that this pathogen is prevalent in domestic cats of northwest Arkansas and putting naïve feline populations at risk of infection. In conclusion, C. felis persists as an aggressive, disease-causing agent that has devastating impacts on domestic cat health, so it is crucial that prevalence rates continue to be investigated and communicated to cat owners and feline care providers.

Keywords

Cytauxzoon felis, cytauxzoonosis, tick-brone diseases, domestic cats, ownership practices, feline medicine

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