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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 29034
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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Two of my indoor cats have developed complete paralysis along

Customer Question

Two of my indoor cats have developed complete paralysis along with urinary incontinence. One. a 16 year 0old, has passed and the other, only 3, seems as if he will not make it to the vets. I have heard, but can not substantiate, that SC, where I live, has been experiencing some sort of feline disease that will produce these symptoms but have been unable to find any information. Is this the case, what is it and what can be done to prevent/cure it?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Michelle-mod replied 2 years ago.
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Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin
I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. I believe you're referring to the paralysis of Chagas disease (Trypanosoma cruzi) which has been seen in South Carolina in dogs and cats. Please see here:
Chagas Disease is a serious illness that’s caused by a zoonotic protozoan parasite known as Trypanosoma cruzi. This parasite eventually works its way into the body’s circulation system, where it spreads to all of the other organs, although the heart and brain are the organs on which it has the most adverse effects.
This disease is most commonly transmitted via “kissing bugs” or “assassin bugs.” Animals that live in South and Central America are particularly at risk of contracting the disease. In the U.S., cases are also commonly reported in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia, California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Maryland. Chagas Disease is also transferable to humans.
Cats are more likely to be carrier hosts for Chagas Disease than they are to suffer any acute problems resulting from it. But despite this, the disease can cause some cats to suffer convulsions and/or paralysis of the hind limbs. In cases where a large number of the host’s cells rupture at the same time, a fever may also occur.
What to Do if You Detect Symptoms of Chagas Disease in Your Pet
If you live in an area that is prone to kissing bugs or assassin bugs, and you notice signs that your pet may have a form of Chagas Disease or that they are acting differently, be sure to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. This disease can be transferred to humans very easily, so it is important to have your pet checked as quickly as possible.
The veterinarian will perform a thorough exam of your pet, and in most cases, will also order a complete blood profile, urinalysis, serology, and an electrolyte panel to search for identifying markers of a parasitic infection. An x-ray and echocardiogram may also be used to look for signs of any pulmonary diseases.
How Is Chagas Disease Treated?
Chagas Disease has no known cure, and as a result of its zoonotic nature and its ease of transference to humans, dogs and cats that contract the parasite are commonly euthanized. However, some drugs have shown promise when administered in the acute stage of the disease. Benznidazole in particular has been shown to help control the development and progression of the disease, but total suppression has yet to be accomplished.
More common is the treatment of the conditions caused by the disease, such as heart arrhythmias and other complications.
How to Prevent Chagas Disease in Your Pet
The most effective way to protect your pet from contracting Chagas Disease is to minimize the chances of them being exposed to parasite-carrying bugs like the kissing bug and the assassin bug. Understandably, this can be a challenge if you live in a high-population area for these types of bugs. Pesticides may help control the population in your yard, but before applying it, make sure that the chemicals are safe for use around pets. Pay particular attention to cracks and crevices when applying the solution, as these bugs will often crawl deep inside where they will be protected from the pesticide.
Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.