What Is Tick-Borne Disease in Cats?
Many are familiar with Lyme Disease; sadly, some might have experienced its effects firsthand. However, only some are aware that this disease can also impact felines. Like many other ailments, Lyme Disease in cats stems from the bite of ticks, classifying it under tick-borne diseases.
Ticks are present throughout the U.S., and their bites can lead to skin complications, blood deficiency, and the alarming condition known as tick paralysis, which can be critical for cats.
Primary Tick-Borne Illnesses Affecting Cats
The top six tick-induced illnesses affecting cats are:
- Lyme Disease: Caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium, it's transmitted by the black-legged (or deer) tick. While primarily prevalent in the eastern U.S., it stretches to regions like Texas and South Dakota.
- Hepatozoonosis: Resulting from a protozoan transmitted via tick bites, it remains relatively rare among cats.
- Tularemia: Stemming from the bacterium Francisella tularensis, it's carried by the American dog tick and Lone Star tick. Except for the Rocky Mountains and Southwest U.S., it's widespread nationwide. Being zoonotic, it can transfer to humans and should be promptly reported.
- Babesiosis (Piroplasmosis): Originating from the protozoan Babesia felis and transmitted via tick bites, this illness hasn't been identified in the U.S. but is frequently observed in regions like Southern Africa.
- Cytauxzoonosis: A disease from the protozoan Cytauxzoonosis felis spread by the Lone Star tick; it's common in the southern U.S., reaching areas such as Wisconsin and Maine.
- Anaplasmosis: Resulting from the rickettsial organism Anaplasma phagocytophilum, it's conveyed by both the black-legged (deer) tick and brown dog tick. Its presence is notable in the eastern and southern parts of the U.S., extending to areas like Texas and South Dakota.
Signs of Tick-Related Illnesses in Felines
Typically, cats might manifest symptoms of tick-borne diseases a few weeks after the tick bite. Observations in your feline might include:
- Joint pain and swelling, lameness, and/or trouble walking
- Changes in meow
- Anemia (blood loss) and secondary bruising, which may be noticed as pale gums, bloody stools, and/or bloody nose
- Large, painful, and swollen lymph nodes
- Difficulty swallowing
- Weight loss
- Irritation, itching and redness around the bite site
- Lack of appetite
- Weakness or diminished movement
Causes of Tick-Borne Disease in Cats
While numerous tick species exist, only a few lead to notable cat illnesses. The main culprits are:
- Brown canine tick
- Black-legged (or deer) tick
- North American canine tick
- Lone Star variety tick.
Diagnoses Of Tick-Borne Disease in Cats
Your vet will conduct a hands-on assessment of your cat, considering any tick prevention treatments previously administered. They might also suggest:
- Conducting blood tests, urine analyses, and radiographs to evaluate your cat's general health and eliminate other potential diseases.
- Testing the urine protein to creatinine ratio to check for potential kidney issues.
- Examination and study of possibly infected tissues or joint fluids.
- PCR or serology tests to identify the DNA of the causative organism.
- If you extract the tick from your cat, keep it in a sealed container for a vet to inspect.
Treatment of Tick-Borne Disease in Cats
Addressing tick-related illnesses in felines typically involves a regimen of antibiotics like doxycycline, spanning two to four weeks. Depending on the symptom intensity, supplementary treatments include pain relievers, blood infusions, anti-inflammatory drugs, intravenous hydration, and agents to boost appetite.
Regrettably, as of now, there isn't a sanctioned vaccine for cats.
Recovery of Tick-Borne Disease in Cats
The likelihood of recovery hinges on the specific disease and the intensity of the symptoms. In cases of tick paralysis in cats, the outcome can be unpredictable, especially if complications like difficulties in breathing and swallowing arise.
While certain illnesses like tularemia and cytauxzoonosis aren't frequent, they can be lethal if not addressed promptly. Many felines that overcome these conditions can lead a relatively typical life. However, they might become disease carriers, necessitating regular check-ups, particularly for potential secondary issues such as Lyme-related kidney disorders.
Guarding Against Tick-Related Illnesses in Cats
Indeed, prevention is paramount when battling ticks. Comprehensive cat tick protection measures encompass treatments like washes, spritzes, skin applications, oral medications, and even protective neckbands. Collaborate with your veterinarian to identify the ideal solution for your cat and you. It's essential to realize that you safeguard your home and its occupants by shielding your cat.