Lyme disease, also known as Lyme Borreliosis, is a tick transmitted disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi (a microscopic bacteria, spirochete). Ixodes scapularis tick species or the deer tick is responsible for spreading the disease. Lyme disease can also spread by other known tick species. It is more prevalent in United states (upper midwestern and pacific northwest areas) and Europe.
Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria primarily feeds on smaller mammals especially rodents (mice). When a tick attacks these hosts (carrier of bacteria), they carry the spirochete with them. Transmission of lyme disease happens when these ticks attach them to dogs or humans (spreading the bacteria). Lyme disease is known to affect a variety of animals, wild animals, farm animals, companion animals and mammals.
Though rare in cats, all felines are susceptible to this infection. The severity of the disease depends on the age of the cat and its immunity response. Outdoor cats, farm cats are at high risk of getting infected.
Lyme disease is ZOONOTIC, which means humans can easily get affected from an infected animal.
Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi (a microscopic bacteria, spirochete). Deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis) can transmit this disease only if they are attached to the cat for over 18 hours.
Clinical Signs & Symptoms
Clinical signs are seen within a day of being bitten by infected ticks.
Common signs are:
› Anorexia (Loss of Appetite)
› Pyrexia (Fever)
› Diarrhea (Loose stools)
› Inflammation of joints
› Effusion (swelling)
› Hyperesthesia (Increased sensitivity to pain)
› Recurrent lameness (Shifting leg lameness)
If left untreated, this can progresses into a severe condition. Symptoms seen include:
› Dyspnea (Trouble Breathing)
› Tachypnea (Rapid Breathing Rate)
› Chronic renal (kidney) failure
› Gastroenteritis (Vomiting and Diarrhea)
› Anorexia (Loss of Appetite)
› Polydipsia and Polyuria (excessive drinking and urinating)
› Ascites (accumulation of fluid in the abdomen)
› Weight loss
› Heart problems
› Central nervous system (CNS) signs
Lyme disease can mimic symptoms of other known diseases. Veterinarians will require a complete history of your cat which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done with a combination of tests. These include routine lab examinations and special tests which can detect the presence of the bacteria. They are:
› Physical examination
› ELISA test (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay)
› Complete Blood Count (CBC)
› Biochemical profile
› Western bolt test
› Coagulation test (for blood clotting abnormalities)
› A thorough cleaning of the area (tick bite as sometimes parts of tick may be left behind)
› Treatment of tick bite wounds (medicated ointments)
› Antibiotic medications
› Painkillers and Anti-inflammatory medications
The key to prevent risk of exposure is to limit pets indoors. Avoid wooded, grassy, bushy areas where tick infestation is the most. Vaccination against Lyme disease needs to be given as directed by your veterinarian.
Home care should aim at improving the condition. Treatments can take a few days to weeks. If you observe any behavioral changes, or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian.
› Daily grooming and prompt tick removal protocols have to be administered.
› Swelling and pain usually subsides within 3 to 5 days of medications.
› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your cat. Keep water and food bowls within reach. Avoid physical activity. Keep your cats away from any noise and commotions.
› You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicine as directed by your veterinarian.
› Do NOT travel with your cat.
› Do NOT allow your cat to roam freely. This works two ways, firstly if the cat is infected, it greatly reduces the chances of risk of exposure to other pets and humans and secondly in-case of a healthy pet, it reduces the chances of contracting the infection.
› Use of environmental disinfectants is recommended. Prompt disposal of any and all materials after use is suggested.
› Routine and regular checkups to access the progress, further tests may be advised. Monitor and administer all medications as directed by your veterinarian and complete the dosage.
› Humans, especially children, pregnant women and ones handling infected pets need to exercise caution. Wear gloves when dealing with a pet, cleaning the litter boxes, disposing any and all contaminated materials, garbage disposals etc. A thorough wash of hands is advised. Practice hygiene.
› There is high probability this infection can re-occur. Seek veterinarian advise post recovery on ways to prevent this from happening.