Lyme disease is a serious illness, especially if left untreated. In the US, it is the most common vector-borne ailment.
And sadly, the number of infections occurring each year is increasing. If you’re a cat lover, it’s normal to worry about your cat getting this dreaded disease. But, can cats get Lyme disease?
Humans and other animals can get infected (like horses, dogs, and small animals like mice). If you want to know if your cat can also be a victim, read on.
Feline Living is here to give you the nitty-gritty details about Lyme disease, if you should worry about your cat getting it, and more.
What Is Lyme Disease?
According to the Yale School of Medicine, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease is ancient in North America. Interestingly, it has been around even before humans existed and has been roaming the forests for at least 60 centuries.
The term Lyme disease, however, was only coined in the year 1975. The disease was first identified in Lyme, Connecticut, which explains its name.
Lyme disease or Lyme borreliosis is a type of bacterial infection. The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi is its most common culprit, but it can also be caused by a bacteria called Borrelia mayonii in rare cases.
How Is It Transmitted?
When it comes to transmission, you can blame it all on those nasty ticks. Note, however, that not all ticks are carriers of the bacteria that causes this disease.
In the US’s north-central, northeastern, and mid-Atlantic areas, the deer tick or black-legged tick, aka “Ixodes scapularis,” is infamous for spreading this disease.
The Western black-legged tick, aka “Ixodes pacificus,” is often responsible for most Pacific and West Coast cases.
To get the disease, humans and animals (dogs included) would have to be bitten by an infected tick. Ticks infected by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi (regardless of the stage of the life cycle they’re in) can act as a spreader.
Most human cases are caused by tick bites from immature ticks (or nymphs). These critters are often active during the spring and summer seasons.
In the colder months, it’s the adult ticks that wreak havoc. But given their size, they often get caught before they bite their prey and spread the disease.
Can Cats Get Lyme Disease?
As mentioned, ticks transmit diseases (Lyme disease included) to humans and other pets. This includes dogs, but what about cats?
Lyme disease happens more frequently in dogs and rarely in cats, according to MSD Veterinary Manual.
On the one hand, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine states there is no clear-cut answer on whether cats are susceptible to this disease. What’s clear, though, is that cats can still test positive for Lyme disease within a laboratory setting,
Since there is still the possibility of infection in cats, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. This will entail taking all the necessary steps to prevent transmission.
Common Symptoms Of Lyme Disease In Cats
Apart from knowing what your enemy is, it’s also extremely important to find out the symptoms that come with the disease. Knowing the signs to watch out for will help you detect infection in its earlier stages.
Once a tick attaches itself to your cats, it will take 24-48 hours for it to transmit the disease. Many cats don’t show any symptoms, even after getting the disease.
However, if your cats display signs a few days or a month after being bitten by a tick, call your veterinarian immediately. Symptoms will include:
- General malaise
- Lameness or swollen and painful joints and muscles
- Inflamed lymph nodes (found near the infected bite)
- Lack of appetite and weight loss
- Difficulty breathing
- Sensitivity to touch
The infection can spread to your cat’s nervous system, heart, and joints if left untreated. Although it rarely happens, failure to treat the disease can result in irreversible tissue damage and the following:
- Kidney damage
- Heart abnormalities
- Nervous system diseases
Diagnosis & Treatment Of Lyme Disease In Cats
When diagnosing Lyme disease in cats, your vet will get your cat’s complete medical history. And since ticks are usually found outdoors, your veterinarian will also ask you about your cat’s activities.
Other than that, you can also expect the veterinarian to check your cat for clinical signs and administer various laboratory tests, including complete blood count and urinalysis.
Hospitalization is not necessary unless your cat’s condition is severe. Treatment usually involves the use of antibiotics. You’d also have to limit your cat’s activity and keep your pal warm and dry until your cat’s condition improves.
Unfortunately, antibiotic treatment doesn’t always work. For some animals, the symptoms do not completely resolve after the treatment. Similar to an infected human, other animals may experience long-term joint pain even after completing the treatment.
How to Prevent Cats From Getting Lyme Disease
Diseases spread fast if you don’t take preventive measures. So, if you prioritize your pet’s health (as well as your family’s), you might want to do the following tick avoidance countermeasures for disease control. Do these, especially if you live in a deer-tick-infested area.
Regular Grooming & Brushing
Yes, your cats do a fine job grooming themselves, which usually gets rid of the ticks. But a little help goes a long way. Brushing your cat’s fur will ensure that your cat is free from ticks and other parasites.
Since it takes one or two days for ticks to transmit Lyme disease, prompt removal of the tick is a must. Ticks found should be removed using tweezers and forceps.
Remember, this can infect you and your other pets. So make sure to wear gloves and keep yourself protected.
Once removed, you can kill ticks by putting them in rubbing alcohol or crushing them in between two hard surfaces – we choose the former.
Use Of Tick Prevention Products
Another way to protect your cat from tick bites is by using insect repellents (think sprays and collars). Since most cats are extremely sensitive, make sure to buy vet-approved and -recommended products.
Keep Your Yard Tick-Free
Since your yard can serve as a tick-breeding ground, you’d want to reduce the tick population by applying outdoor pesticides and removing all the possible places where they can hide and breed.
This includes tall grasses, old furniture, and trash. If you live beside a wooded area, you can also set up a 3-feet wide barrier of gravel or wood chips between the wooded area and your lawn.
Lyme disease in cats may be rare, but it’s still a severe condition. Besides, ticks do not only carry bacteria-causing Lyme disease, but they can also spread other diseases. So, if you prioritize your cat’s health, you have nothing to lose if you step up your game.
How does a tick bite affect a cat?
Tick saliva can be highly irritating, and this may cause your cat to scratch excessively at the site of the tick bite. Symptoms associated with extreme itching such as sore, broken skin, infection and hair loss may also occur in serious cases.
What happens if tick head left in cat?
If you attempt to remove a tick but its head or mouthparts are left behind in your pet, don't panic. You've killed the tick and removed its body, preventing any serious risk of disease transmission. The residual parts, however, could still lead to an infection at the attachment site.
Can ticks on cats transfer to humans?
Ticks are unpleasant parasites that may affect your cat –and if your cat is bitten, the tick may even pose a risk to people in your household. Ticks can also carry diseases. The bacterial infections including Lyme disease can be carried by ticks and passed to cats and even people, if they get a chance to bite.
What kills ticks on cats instantly?
Once you remove a tick, place it in a capful of rubbing alcohol to kill it. Wash your hands immediately and apply a disinfectant or antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin to the bite on your cat. To help your veterinarian, bag the tick for identification and bring it to your visit.
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