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Lyme Disease in Cats: Causes, Signs, Diagnosis, Treatment and Control

Lyme disease in cats is a bacterial disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi and spread through the tick bite. It affects domestic animals and humans, characterized by high fever, swollen lymph nodes, lameness, difficulty breathing, and appetite loss. The disease can also affect the joints, kidneys, nervous system, and heart. Lyme disease mostly occurs in dogs than in cats.

In this article you will get:

  • Causes.
  • Epidemiology and Transmission.
  • Clinical Signs.
  • Diagnosis.
  • Treatment.
  • Prevention.
  • Prognosis of Lyme Disease.

Causes of Lyme Disease in Cats

A spiral-shaped bacterium, named spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, is responsible for Lyme disease, transmitted to animals and humans by the tick’s bite. It is divided into at least four species affecting people and animals worldwide. The infection occurs after the bacteria-carrying tick has been attached to the pets for at least 16-18 hours.

Causes of Lyme Disease in Cats

Transmission and Epidemiology

Slow-feeding, hard-shelled deer ticks transmit Lyme disease, and the tick must remain to adhere to the animal’s skin for at least 24 hours before the bacteria can be transferred. The primary established vectors causing Lyme borreliosis are various species of the Ixodes ricinus. Nymphs or adult ticks usually infect people and pets.

Epidemiology and Transmission of Lyme Borreliosis

Like pets, people can have Lyme disease too. The bite of infected ticks gains the infection. Infected cats do not transmit the disease to man. The natural clinical disease has not been documented in cats, but cats are seropositive for this infection.

What are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Cats?

The symptoms of Lyme disease in cats include:

  • Fever.
  • Lethargy.
  • Appetence.
  • Acute lameness of cats with no history of trauma and arthralgia (polyarthritis).
  • Limping that may shift from leg to leg.
  • Stiffness and pain.
  • Secondary kidney disease leading to increased vomiting, thirst, and urination.
  • Confusion.
  • Seizures.
  • Recurring lameness.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Lymphadenopathy.

Clinical Signs of Lyme Disease

  • Glomerulonephritis.
  • Myocarditis can develop weeks to months later.
  • Protein-losing glomerulopathy progressing to renal failure has also been reported. 
  • Sometimes nervous system complications occur.



Diagnosis of Lyme Borreliosis in Cats

Diagnosis is based primarily on history, clinical signs, and blood testing. 

  • Collect a thorough history of your pet’s health condition and symptoms. 
  • It should be noted early in the disease, and the blood test can be harmful even though the condition is present. 
  • The blood test will show exposure to the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. 
  • Identification or isolation of B. burgdorferi from tissues or body fluids is definitive but extremely difficult and requires your experts’ help. 
  • Immunofluorescence and PCR are used in research laboratories. 
  • A positive response to treatment is also crucial in making a final diagnosis.

Diagnosis of Lyme Disease in cats

How to Treat Lyme Disease in Cats?

The most effective antibiotics for Lyme disease treatment are penicillin, tetracyclines, ampicillin, amoxicillin, and the third generation of cephalosporins erythromycin. The antibiotics are beneficial for treating the disease in both animals and humans in Lyme disease’s early stages. Doxycycline is usually the best drug of choice for treating your pets with the acute infection for at least 2 to 4 weeks.

Treatment of Lyme Disease

Aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories drugs or glucocorticoids may help pain relief during episodes of recurrent synovitis. If detected initially, there is almost complete recovery of pain and lameness within 24 hours of first treatment in cats. Chronic cases of Lyme disease respond much slower and require more extended periods of treatment.

Prevention and Control of Feline Lyme Disease

Preventive and control measures are as follows:

  • Lyme disease is more severe for humans than pets. Thus it is essential to eliminate ticks by removing them from the cat and using appropriate chemical and biological controls.
  • Quick removal of a tick will help prevent Lyme disease because it must remain attached to the pet’s body for one to two days before the disease can be transmitted.
  • A vaccine for Lyme disease is available but is not widely used because it is self-limiting, and immunity is limited to not more than six months following vaccination.

Prevention of Feline Lyme Disease

Prognosis of The Disease

Pets should begin to show signs of recovery 2 to 3 days after starting treatment. However, the disease may onset again within a few weeks or months; in these cases, the cat will need to return to antimicrobial therapy for extended periods.

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