Lyme Disease in Cats

Lyme Disease in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
Lyme Disease in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Lyme Disease?

The type of bacteria that causes Lyme disease is transmitted by certain types of ticks, namely the deer tick in the US. These ticks will start to transmit the disease within 36-48 hours of attaching to the cat’s coat. Brushing your cat each time they come inside will help you spot a tick. If you remove the tick using a pair of tweezers within the first 48 hours, your cat will have a significantly reduced chance of contracting Lyme disease. Always wear gloves and sterilize your hands after removing a tick, because Lyme disease from ticks can also affect humans.

Lyme disease is incredibly rare in cats. In fact, it’s so rare that it has never been diagnosed in a house cat, or any other cat, outside of a laboratory. Lyme disease is much more common in dogs, but it is important to know the signs, as the disease can lead to other severe problems such as kidney failure, neurological dysfunction, joint damage, and cardiac conditions.

Lyme Disease Average Cost

From 503 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$650

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Cats

Even when they are infected, many cats won’t show any symptoms until the disease has caused more significant damage. This will take place usually around four weeks after the initial bite. It’s important to keep an eye out for these symptoms if you suspect your cat has Lyme disease:

  • Fever
  • Lameness or limping
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stiff and/or swollen joints or muscles

It is imperative that you take your cat to the vet immediately upon noticing symptoms.

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Causes of Lyme Disease in Cats

The primary cause of Lyme disease in cats is exposure to deer ticks or Western black-legged ticks, particularly in warm weather. These ticks transmit the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi when they bite an animal, not the disease itself. These bacteria cause Lyme disease, and spread through the bloodstream immediately after the bite. 

Ticks don’t jump from host to host like fleas; they crawl in the grass and await their host. The best way to protect your cat against Lyme disease is to practice prevention through the use of certain flea and tick medications. Always consult your vet regarding which one is safest for your cat, as cats can be sensitive to these types of medications.

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Diagnosis of Lyme Disease in Cats

The first step in diagnosing Lyme disease will be to carry out a physical examination of the cat. Your vet can also use a number of tests to determine whether or not your cat has Lyme disease. The most popular and effective diagnostic test is a blood analysis. Your vet will likely ask about your cat’s outdoor activity, as well as when you first noticed their symptoms.

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Treatment of Lyme Disease in Cats

Due to the rarity of Lyme disease in domestic cats, treatment methods are not as fully understood or clearly outlined as they are for dogs.

Most cases of Lyme disease are treated with a course of antibiotics. In some cases, though, antibiotics may not be entirely curative. Cats that are treated as soon as possible have a very good chance of making a full recovery. Limb and joint conditions caused by Lyme disease also respond rapidly to treatment. However, limb and joint symptoms may not clear up completely in many animals infected with the disease, even after treatment.

If Lyme disease remains untreated for several weeks, treatment and recovery may become prolonged. Untreated Lyme disease will cause irreversible damage to the tissues, particularly in the joints and limbs.

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Recovery of Lyme Disease in Cats

Recovery will depend on how long the cat has had Lyme disease and whether or not it has caused tissue damage. However, since there are so few cases of Lyme disease in cats, there is little information available on the treatment methods and recovery prognoses of tissue that has been irreversibly damaged by Lyme disease.

While there is a vaccine for dogs that will help prevent Lyme disease, there is no preventative vaccine for cats, so you’ll want to ensure you take necessary preventative measures at home. Always brush your cat carefully after it goes outside, checking their coat carefully for ticks. If you do see a tick, always wear gloves during removal. Never touch the tick with your bare hands, and only remove it using a pair of tweezers. Ticks are notoriously difficult to kill, so ensure that you dispose of them in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol.

Consult your vet regarding which tick and flea medications are safe to administer to your cat. The vet may prescribe a round of antibiotics for use at home. Your vet may also schedule a follow-up appointment to ensure that the disease has been fully eradicated.

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Lyme Disease Average Cost

From 503 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$650

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Lyme Disease Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Lucy

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domestic short hair

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3 Years

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1 found helpful

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1 found helpful

Has Symptoms

None

I work in a wildlife rehabilitation facility and have recently been exposed to an animal with ticks and today found a bulls eye rash on my arm. I did not ever notice a tick on my person or feel the bite. I live in the city, an hour away from work, but I have an indoor cat at home. What are the chances the tick stayed on me and happened to get on her? No symptoms - she's her old self - I'm just worried about the possibility that I transmitted a tick to her.

July 20, 2018

Lucy's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

1 Recommendations

Ticks can stay feeding on a human for a long time especially if left undisturbed (days even); however if the tick has a good meal on you it shouldn’t be looking for another meal anytime soon. You should ensure that Lucy has an effective flea and tick topical spot on medication and check her regularly. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 20, 2018

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Snowball

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Cat

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11 Years

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1 found helpful

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1 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Lethargy, Weak,
Lethargy

Could my cat have lymes disease because he's a house cat but got out and isn't acting like himself. He's usually very social & vocal but now all he does is lay around and is having troublw meowing

May 29, 2018

Snowball's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

There are many reasons that Snowball may be having that behavior, and Lyme disease is not common in cats. More common are systemic diseases, infectious disease, and other problems that cats get. It would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible, as they can examine her, possibly run lab work, and determine what might be going on so that they can help her.

May 29, 2018

Yes

July 2, 2018

Pilar H.

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Lyme Disease Average Cost

From 503 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$650

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