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“I couldn’t believe it,” Deadly disease affecting cats spreading across Oklahoma

NORMAN, Okla. - It's a disease that acts quickly and aggressively, and it is becoming more common across the Sooner State.

"My husband had noticed a little bit of nasal discharge and a little blood in it at first, and he said ‘I think you need to look at Paws,’" said Barbara Tarbutton.

Tarbutton knew something was wrong with her beloved cat, Paw Paws, in March.

"And, he didn't walk right, and I mean I threw my clothes on within 20 minutes and we were out of here to the vet,” she said.

Within hours, the vet diagnosed Paw Paws with a blood parasite known as Bobcat Fever.

The cat was given an expensive medicine used to treat the disease, but it was no use.

"He got one dose of it and, on the way home from the vet, he died. It was just I couldn't believe it," Tarbutton said.

Veterinarians around the state are seeing a lot of cases of this extremely fatal illness, especially in rural areas like Tarbutton's home near Lake Thunderbird.

Experts said Bobcat Fever can only be passed to domestic cats through tick bites.

"The ticks this year have been awful. I've probably seen a five- to 10-fold increase and tick diseases this year not just in cats but dogs also,” said Dr. David Biles with Westwood Veterinary Hospital.

Experts said Bobcat Fever was named for the bobcat since they are the host reservoir for the disease.

“If we can get to it early enough, there are therapies we can do that will help the cat, but most cats will get the disease and pass away," Biles said.

Some symptoms include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and crying out in pain.

Veterinarians said pet owners should be vigilant and attempt to prevent tick bites in the first place.

Tarbutton hopes no one else will have to go through the same pain of losing a cat in such an awful way.

“It's just really hard, because you get attached to your little fur babies and they become part of your family, especially one like him," Tarbutton said.