The veterinarians at White & White Veter-inary Hospital, with loca-tions in West Yello-wstone and Ennis, have rece-ntly rece-ived confirmation of a case of tularemia in a family pet cat from Island Park, Idaho.

The veterinarians suspected either tularemia or plague in the indoor/outdoor cat that likes to hunt. The cat presented with a history of marked lethargy and heavy breathing; he also had a high temperature. He responded to antibiotic therapy and within a few days was on his way back home.

Because of the seriousness of the suspected diseases, and the potential for human infection of either disease, blood samples from the feline patient were sent to the federal government's Center for Disease Control (CDC) regional lab in Fort Collins, Colo. The results were positive for tularemia and negative for plague.

Over the years the veterinarians at Ennis have diagnosed a number of cases of both plague and tularemia in indoor and outdoor hunting pet cats. The farthest north for a case has been Norris, Montana. This is the first Idaho case we have had for either disease. Last summer, in 2010, there was a confirmed case of plague on the Montana side of Raynolds Pass and another plague case from Cliff Lake this summer. This demonstrates that both diseases are in the Island Park area.

Both tularemia and plague are classified as potential bioterrorism agents, and are mandatorily reportable diseases to the authorities when confirmed.

The primary mode of transmission to cats for tularemia is exposure to infected rodent or rabbit tissues (consumption of the critter by the cat). The primary mode of transmission for plague, the disease responsible for killing millions of people in various waves in past centuries in Europe (also known as the black death, bubonic plague, and pest of man), to cats is from fleas or other insect bites that first fed on an infected wild rodent or rabbit or from contact with infected tissues directly of the rodent or rabbit.

There are no vaccinations for cats for either disease. Successful treatment consists of careful nursing care and antibiotic therapy.