What Is Lyme Disease in Cats?
Lyme disease results from the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, carried by ticks. While ticks aren't the source of Lyme disease, they are pivotal in transmitting the bacteria. Primarily, ticks from the Ixodes genus, including the deer tick, carry this disease after feeding on animals such as deer, rabbits, and rodents. In some areas of North America, Lyme disease is prevalent, with some locations reporting up to 50% of ticks carrying the bacterium. While many mammals, including humans and dogs, can contract Lyme disease, cats seldom get affected.
When a tick harboring the Borrelia bacteria bites a cat, the bacteria can be transmitted via the tick's saliva. After the tick latches on, it typically takes 24 to 48 hours for the bacteria to transfer. If cats do display signs of Lyme disease, which is rare, the symptoms mirror those seen in dogs and might become apparent two to five months post-tick bite. Nonetheless, the majority of cats remain symptom-free.
The Borrelia bacterium is adept at evading the host's immune defenses, making it challenging for animals to rid themselves of the bacteria. The sneaky bacteria often take refuge in various body parts, including the skin, joints, connective tissues, and the nervous system.
Lyme Disease Indications in Cats
It's infrequent for cats to display evident signs of Lyme disease. While the distinctive red "bull's eye" mark surrounding the bite is a frequent observation in humans, it's not typically seen in cats or dogs. Bites from black flies can often be confused with the Lyme rash, so a thorough check by a vet is essential.
When symptoms do manifest, they often include:
- Limping or difficulty in movement
- Decreased appetite
- Elevated temperature
In instances where Lyme disease severely impacts the kidneys, one might observe:
- Regurgitation of food or water
- Shedding pounds unexpectedly
- Profound weariness
- Fluid accumulation leads to swelling in the extremities
The disease might compromise the heart and nervous system in the most acute scenarios.
Cause of Lyme Disease in Cats
Lyme disease in cats stems from a bite by a tick carrying the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. Young ticks acquire this bacteria during their feeding sessions in autumn. The tick's saliva introduces the bacteria to the cat during the bite, leading the Borrelia to rapidly multiply and spread across the cat's skin, eventually dispersing through the body.
For Borrelia to be effectively transferred, ticks need to remain latched onto the cat for a period ranging between 24 and 48 hours. This duration provides tick preventatives ample time to neutralize the tick before it can pass on to the bacteria. Hence, maintaining consistent flea and tick protection for cats is crucial. Multiple methods exist to safeguard cats from tick exposure.
Diagnoses Of Lyme Disease in Cats
A combination of the animal's medical history, observable symptoms, lab tests, and differential diagnoses is employed to diagnose Lyme disease in cats. Given the rarity of Lyme disease in felines, other potential issues, such as bone fractures or abscesses, must first be ruled out, especially when symptoms like limping are present.
Lyme disease diagnosis typically hinges on a simple and cost-effective blood test. Complementary diagnostic measures like radiographs and additional blood analysis can help discern other health concerns exhibiting similar symptoms. If Lyme is detected in a feline, further tests can gauge the progression and intensity of the disease.
It's worth noting that a cat might not manifest a positive test for Lyme disease until two to eight weeks post-tick bite, or sometimes not at all. If you discover a tick on your feline companion, several labs can assess the tick for potential pathogens. Routine tests for tick-borne diseases like Lyme aren't standard for cats. However, if you encounter a tick on your pet, your vet can guide you regarding the appropriate diagnostic measures or treatments.
Recovery of Lyme Disease in Cats
After starting antibiotics, many felines show signs of improvement within a couple of days. Despite their improved condition, they must complete the prescribed antibiotic regimen, typically lasting around 30 days.
Given Borrelia's knack for eluding the immune system, the bacteria may persist, taking refuge in joints and other cellular structures, leading to occasional flare-ups. Should this occur, additional antibiotic treatments might be necessary.
While Lyme disease is a rarity in cats, those afflicted can suffer from complications such as arthritis and prolonged kidney damage.
Lyme Disease Prevention in Cats
Even though a vaccine against Lyme disease is available for dogs, none exists for cats currently. The most effective measure to guard cats against Lyme disease is using tick preventatives. The market offers a wide array of these, and your vet can guide your furry friend on the most suitable option. It's also important to promptly remove any ticks discovered on your cat.
It's worth noting that Lyme disease is zoonotic, implying humans are susceptible. However, direct transmission from cats to their owners isn't a concern. For transmission to occur, an infected tick would need to bite the human.