Lyme disease in cats


Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is acquired by the bite of an infected tick. Usually, the first symptom is a rash that can be seen as a cockade, but not everyone has this rash. As the infection spreads, you may have:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Stiff neck
  • Fatigue

Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose because many of its symptoms are similar to the flu or other diseases. In addition, you may not have noticed the tick bite. Your healthcare provider will look at your symptoms and medical history to determine if you have Lyme disease. Laboratory tests do not always provide a clear answer until you have the infection for a couple of weeks.

Antibiotics can cure most cases of Lyme disease. The sooner the treatment begins, the faster and more complete the recovery will be.

After treatment, some patients may continue to experience muscle and joint pain and symptoms in the nerves. This is called post-Lyme disease syndrome. Long-term antibiotic treatment has not shown efficacy for this syndrome. However, there are ways to deal with the symptoms and most patients get better over time.

What is Lyme disease in cats?

Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, A type of bacteria that is transmitted by ticks. Lyme disease affects a variety of species, including humans and dogs. It has been reported in cats after experimental infection with B. burgdorferi, although experts are still studying whether it occurs naturally in cats exposed to infected ticks. However, it is a diagnosis to consider when cats have symptoms compatible with Lyme disease, especially in areas where Lyme disease is common. 95% of confirmed cases of Lyme disease have been reported in 14 states of the United States, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont , Virginia and Wisconsin. .

Cats and dogs can become infected with Borrelia burgdorferi without ever developing symptoms of Lyme disease. When Lyme disease is common, cats can test positive for bacterial exposure despite showing no signs of disease.

Causes and transmission of Lyme disease

Ticks become infected with the bacteria by feeding on infected mice and other small animals. When an infected tick bites other animals, it can transmit the bacteria to these animals. Lyme disease is transmitted by the deer tick (also called black-legged tick) and a group of other closely related ticks. The exact tick species varies by location. The deer tick is a small tick and can bite animals and people without being easily detected.

Cats that spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in areas with shrubs or tall grasses, have a higher risk of becoming infected with Lyme disease. It is important to remember that ticks can be transported to other animals, so even cats that do not wander away could be bitten by a tick. Ticks are frequently found in dogs, therefore, if you have a dog, the tick can transport dogs to the house and then bite the cat. There is currently no evidence that Lyme disease is transmitted by direct contact between animals, including between infected pets and their owners.

Diagnosis of Lyme Disease in Cats

Because many cats do not develop symptoms after infection with B. burgdorferi, the diagnosis of Lyme disease should be made by a combination of factors, including history (especially exposure to ticks), clinical signs and antibody detection B. burgdorferi Bacteria, and a rapid response to antibiotic treatment. An antibody test is not enough to make a diagnosis by itself because not all cats that are exposed to B. burgdorferi get sick and antibodies can persist in the blood for a long time after exposure. Other diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, urine tests, x-rays, and joint fluid samples, can also be done to detect more serious effects of Lyme disease, such as kidney disease, and to rule out other conditions that may cause similar signs. and symptoms

Lyme disease treatment

Antibiotic treatment usually produces rapid improvement in symptoms. If there are more serious problems that could be secondary to Lyme disease, such as kidney disease, a longer cycle of antibiotics is usually necessary along with additional medications. Your veterinarian will propose a treatment plan that is aligned with the needs and medical situation of your cat.

Lyme disease prevention

Tick ​​control is extremely important for the prevention of Lyme disease (and other diseases that can be transmitted by ticks). This is true for both pets and humans. Check outside cats daily to see if they have ticks and take them out safely as soon as possible. In long-haired cats, be sure to remove the fur and examine the cat at the skin level. A tick adheres to the skin of animals, not the skin, if it is feeding. Because ticks must be fed for at least 12 hours (possibly 24 to 48 hours) before transmitting the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, removing the tick as soon as possible can help prevent transmission. Be careful when handling ticks, as they are also potentially infectious to people. If possible, try to store the tick in a sealed plastic bag or in a container. Some veterinarians will want to examine or test the tick, but that will vary on a case-by-case basis.

You can use products that kill ticks, such as Frontline Plus for Cats®, be sure to follow your veterinarian's advice when using these products. Keep grass and brush trimmed in your garden and in areas where ticks are a serious problem, you can also consider treating the tick yard.
Please note: this article has been provided for informational purposes only. If your pet shows signs of illness, consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Stage 1: early Lyme disease:

In this early erythema migrans appears, 3 to 30 days after infection, or 7 days on average.

MS affects 70 to 80% of people infected with borrelia.

Characteristics of the rash:

  • It usually begins as a small erythematous area that expands for several days, to reach a diameter of about 30 centimeters.
  • It usually begins at the site of inoculation of the tick, but it can arise in any other part of the body, as the bacteria dieseminates.
  • You can lose your central coloration, which gives it an aspect of bull's-eye.
  • There is no pain or itching in the affected area, but you may feel warm to the touch.

The rash may be less visible on darker colored skin.

Stage 2: Lyme disease spread early:

The rash disappears after about 4 weeks, even without any treatment, but other symptoms may add up after days or months after infection. These include :

  • Meningitis, which leads to headaches and stiff neck.
  • Additional eruptions
  • Fever and chills.
  • Lymphadenopathy
  • Fatigue.
  • Arthralgia and bone pain, especially in larger joints.
  • Cardiac manifestations such as arrhythmias.
  • Facial paralysis or loss of facial muscle tone, unilateral or bilateral.
  • Dizziness and trouble breathing
  • Neuralgia and sharp pains, paresthesia in hands or feet.

This symptomatology can also remit without the completion of a treatment, after a few weeks or months, but later additional complications appear.

Stage 3: Lyme disease with late spread:

Also known as late Lyme disease. It may be the first alert of this pathology in some individuals.

These symptoms may appear after weeks, months and even years of the initial infection, in the event that a patient has not undergone adequate and effective therapy.

This stage involves nerve and heart problems.

The affected person may present:

  • Difficult to focus.
  • Sleeping problems.
  • Alterations of vision.
  • Memory loss.
  • Paresthesia
  • Arrhythmias
  • Arthralgias
  • Paralysis of the facial muscles.

Approximately 60% of untreated patients will experience recurrent outbreaks of arthritis with severe inflammation, especially of the large joints.

Post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome

Some treated patients may experience post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome or chronic Lyme disease.

This implies nonspecific symptoms, such as fatigue and arthralgia, which may persist even months after the end of therapy.

In these cases the treatment is symptomatic, with the use of rest and anti-inflammatory.