Cat Lyme Disease

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Lyme disease is not as commonly diagnosed in cats as it is in dogs, maybe because cats are so good at grooming themselves and removing ticks before they have a chance to attach and transmit the disease. But cat owners, particularly those that live in the Lyme endemic regions of the northeastern U.S., northern mid-Atlantic, upper Midwest and the northern California coast, should still be aware of the disease.

It is important to note that although people can develop Lyme disease, they cannot contract it directly from cats or dogs; they must be bitten by an infected tick.

" An infected tick needs to be attached to a susceptible animal for at least 48 hours for transmission of the bacteria to occur."

What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Cats?

Infection with the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi causes Lyme disease. These bacteria are transmitted from one animal to another through the bites of particular types of ticks (e.g., deer or Ixodes ticks). The ticks usually pick up the bacteria from infected wildlife such as deer and rodents. An infected tick needs to be attached to a susceptible animal for at least 48 hours for transmission of the bacteria to occur.

Symptoms of Lyme disease in cats include:

  • Painful joints and muscles. Cats may limp, be reluctant to move, jump and climb, and can cry out in pain when touched or picked up.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low energy levels
  • Fever
  • The "bulls-eye" rash that commonly affects people with Lyme disease is not frequently seen in cats.

The ticks that carry Lyme disease are very small, and symptoms can develop long after a cat has been bitten. Therefore, even if you have not noticed ticks on your pet recently, she may still have Lyme disease.

Lyme Disease Diagnosis and Treatment

Frontline Plus

Lyme disease is not the most common cause of pain, fever and lethargy in cats, so your veterinarian will need to run blood work that looks for exposure to Borrelia bacteria and perform other diagnostic tests to rule out conditions that cause similar symptoms.

If Lyme disease is diagnosed early enough, a two or three week course of a certain type of antibiotic, most often one called doxycycline, will usually lower bacterial numbers to the point where cats no longer show any signs of the disease.

Preventing Tick Bites

The best way to protect your cat from Lyme disease is to keep her indoors and use an effective tick control product like Frontline Plus. If you find a tick on your pet, remove it promptly using a pair of tweezers or tick pliers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull it free, making sure to remove the imbedded mouthparts as well. Flush the tick down the toilet and wash your hands and equipment thoroughly.

The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your pet. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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