Do cats get Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is caused by a corkscrew shaped type of bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. This disease that affects a wide variety of species is one of the most common diseases transmitted by ticks. Humans and dogs are affected. Although rare, cats are affected too. In areas where Lyme disease is prevalent, the risk of getting the disease is high for cats that spend a lot of time outdoors.

Lime disease is commonly transmitted by the deer tick. Ticks would get the bacteria by feeding on infected animals. Ticks are one of the octoparsites of dogs and cats. Ticks that have feed on an infected rat and then managed to transfer to a cat will transmit the bacteria when it bites and feeds on the cat’s blood. Lyme disease is prevalent in outdoor cats that have the inclination to roam in areas with tall grasses. However, indoor-only cats can be infected too. After gorging on the blood of the host, the tick would drop off on the vegetation. The tick would jump on to another host when it gets hungry. The tick that infects the indoor cat can be carried into the house by the pet dog that has been wandering in bush land and grassy areas.

Some cat would not show symptoms of the disease. Lyme disease is otherwise known as shifting leg lameness because infected cat would develop an acute lameness on one leg. The lameness usually lasts for two to three days and recurs a few days after with the lameness transferred to another leg. Affected cats appear to be in a “zombielike trance” because the disease would cause stiffness in the muscles and joints. The cat will be seen walking stiffly with the back arched. The cat may have difficulty in breathing. The superficial lymph nodes near the bite site will be swollen. Due to the pain of the inflamed joints, the cat can have elevated body temperature, may have no appetite and show signs of depression.

The symptoms of Lyme disease can mimic signs of old age. To correctly diagnose the cat’s condition, a vet would require urinalysis, complete blood count and chemical blood profile. These tests would check the presence and identify the bacteria. The cat owner has to take note of the symptoms the cat is showing as the history of symptoms would help in diagnosing the condition of the pet. Antibiotic therapy usually produces fast improvement on the cat’s condition. The medication’s effects would be seen in two to three days. Hospitalizing the cat would not be necessary unless Lyme disease has caused the development of more serious health concerns. The development of kidney disease is at times associated with Lyme disease. If this situation happens, the cat would need more than antibiotic treatment. Other medications will be necessary.

In areas where Lyme disease is prevalent, vaccines are usually administered to dogs. Unfortunately there is no vaccination against Lyme disease for cats. The good news is that cats appear to be resistant to the disease as compared to dogs. Nevertheless, preventive measures would still be necessary. The importance of tick control cannot be stressed enough. The cat must be groomed daily so that any ticks can be removed by hand. Ticks would have to feed for 24 to 48 hours before the bacteria can be transmitted. Removing the parasite as soon as possible will prevent the cat from getting infected. Sprays and collars, spot on topical products and tick repellents would prevent infestation. For areas where tick is a serious problem, it would be a good idea to keep the grass in the yards trimmed and to use tick treatments on the yard as well.