Is my cat at risk of getting Lyme Disease?
The short answer is: not commonly, no. The long answer is...
Hosting the Bacteria vs. Developing Lyme
Lyme disease is cause by a bacteria. The bacteria generally
originates in small rodents like mice. Ticks -- often hard
shelled deer ticks -- pick the
bacteria up from these small animals. Later, if one of these
bacteria-carrying ticks finds their way to you or your pet, the
bacteria can then be transferred. The bacteria is what causes
Cats have been known to contract the bacteria, and even carry
it for the long term. However, they don’t typically develop
symptoms of Lyme disease. Cats have a unique immune system.
Their body is able to tolerate the bacteria in ways that canine
and human bodies cannot.
Although it’s rare, it is possible for cats to develop Lyme
disease. If you’ve noticed unusual behavior, or if your cat
appears to be unwell, and you aren’t able to figure out why, it
could be Lyme.
Indications that Your Cat Might Have Lyme Disease
Symptoms of Lyme disease in cats, dogs, and in humans, are of a
general lack of wellness. Your cat may appear lethargic or more
irritable than usual. Sometimes lameness occurs. A specific
sort of lameness may occur in which one leg appears to bother
your cat, then a few days later, a different leg will bother
them. This is known as shifting-leg lameness.
Other indications of Lyme may include swollen joints that are
warm to the touch and an unpleasant reaction from your cat, or
“pain response,” when you attempt to feel the joint. Cats may
refuse food, appear to be in pain,
or not want to be touched.
At this point, you’ll want to bring your cat in to see the vet.
Diagnosis & Treatment of Lyme Disease in Cats
The veterinarian will get a history from you regarding when and
where your cat plays outdoors, or whether other pets or
children (or you!) might have brought ticks into the house.
They’ll likely test your cat’s urine and blood.
Because Lyme disease is rare in cats, it’s sometime difficult
to diagnose. Blood tests may show your cat is carrying the
bacteria, and your cat may be exhibiting symptoms that point to
Lyme, but in the end, it could be some other ailment or
allergy that’s troubling your
If symptoms and the environment your cat lives in point
to the possibility of Lyme disease, your veterinarian may
prescribe antibiotics. If it is in fact Lyme disease, your cat
should respond quickly and positively to this course of
treatment. Symptoms will ease up, and then disappear. It’s only
then that you’ll know for sure that you were in fact dealing
with Lyme. If symptoms persist, you may need to go back to the
Long Term Effects of Lyme Disease in Cats
Because Lyme disease is rare in cats, it may sometimes go
undiagnosed. As with Lyme disease in humans (and dogs), cats
will see the best results from treatment as early as possible.
Left undiagnosed and untreated, Lyme could cause some very
unfortunate afflictions down the road, including kidney disease and respiratory problems,
though instances are rare.
Lyme disease is one of many tick-borne ailments, and these
diseases are no fun for anyone. Although Lyme is rare in cats,
your cat may be exposed to other
tick-borne diseases, including Ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted
Fever. The best prevention from these diseases is prevention of
ticks in the first place.
If your cat roams outdoors, consider a monthly spot-on flea and tick repellant. For
outdoor time only, in high infestation areas, flea and tick
collars can help. The best prevention of all is good old
fashioned hands-on time. Feel around for ticks as often as
you’re able. If you find a tick on your cat’s body, remove it
carefully, and destroy it. It’s unlikely that a tick that
hasn’t yet had its fill has transmitted any diseases or
disease-causing bacteria. If the tick is engorged, be on the
lookout for symptoms in your cat in a few weeks time. Remember:
early detection and treatment are best.
Is Lyme Disease a Biological Warfare Agent?
Plum Island Animal Disease Center
Conspiracy theorists have been saying it for years, and though
the Department of Homeland
Security claims it's absolutely untrue, a stack of
unsettling coincidences seem to link Plum Island research
to Lyme disease.Plum
Island is less than 10 miles off the coast of Lyme,
Connecticut, where Lyme disease was first diagnosed and which
has the highest number of reported cases of Lyme disease of any
area in the country. Just off Long Island, Plum Island Animal Disease
Center was opened in 1954 during the Cold War with the
stated goal of researching animal diseases in order to protect
livestock. The USDA claims that a pathogen has never escaped
from the island, but there are still a few unnerving possible
claim that Plum Island was involved in "Project
Paperclip," a program in which Nazi scientists are
said to have been recruited to study biological warfare on the
island.When the Centers of Disease Control opened Margaret
Batts Tobin Laboratory Building in Texas, they announced that
the facility would be used to study diseases identified as
potential bioterrorism agents, including anthrax, tularemia,
cholera, and Lyme disease.Finally, there's no denying that
research on tick-borne diseases has been done at Plum Island,
as published research papers
available on PubMed attest.Do you think there will ever be
an investigation, or should there be one?
More on Protecting Your Feline from Lyme Disease
Do I Really Need Flea and Tick
Flea and Tick Season: When to Use
How to Get Rid of a Tick
This information is for informational purposes only and
is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or
diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to
your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed
veterinarian for accuracy.