Can Cats Get Lyme Disease?

As a pet owner, you’ve probably heard of Lyme disease before. This disease is a serious threat to dogs, and it can also affect humans in some instances. But is it something you need to worry about if you have cats, too? Is your cat at risk of Lyme disease? Why or why not?

In the article below, we’ll break down more information to help you better understand the relationship between cats and Lyme disease. You can use this guide to learn more about your cat and their overall health and wellness needs. Read on to find out more.

cat lyme disease

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a serious illness that is spread through tick bites. Lyme is caused by a type of bacteria that can be found in the body of female ticks. When these infected ticks bite a host—typically a pet or a human—the bacteria is transmitted from the tick’s bite to the host’s body, infecting the host as well.

In some locations, Lyme disease is almost entirely impossible to contract. However, in many parts of the United States, black-legged ticks (deer ticks) are prevalent and are likely to carry this illness. Lyme disease is potentially fatal if left unmanaged, and there is no cure for this condition.

How is Lyme Disease Treated in Animals?

Lyme disease is treated first with a round of antibiotics that may be given for several months at a time. These antibiotics do not get rid of the Lyme disease entirely, but they make it easier for your pet’s body to heal and avoid the risk of secondary infections, too.

From there, pets may be given anti-inflammatory or steroid medication to help with pain and joint stiffness related to Lyme disease. Your pet will also be closely monitored throughout the illness for signs of any worsening of the condition.

What are the Symptoms and Prognosis of Lyme Disease?

Lameness is one of the most common symptoms of Lyme disease. Pets who develop Lyme have joint pain and mobility issues which keep them from being able to move around comfortably and prevent them from walking properly. Infected pets may also have very swollen lymph nodes and may experience swelling at the joints, too.

As the disease progresses, it can lead to heart trouble, kidney failure, and brain issues as well. The longer the condition goes without being treated, the less likely it becomes for an animal to survive Lyme disease. If caught early, however, Lyme can be treated, and animals may recover well, even if they continue to have symptoms for the rest of their lives periodically.

Does Lyme Disease Affect Cats?

Lyme disease almost never affects cats. Outside of a lab setting, there are no recorded instances of cats developing Lyme disease. This means that cats have only been able to develop this illness in situations where they are being actively infected with it, on purpose, to study its effects.

While it is physically possible for cats to contract Lyme disease, it is extremely unlikely. Dogs and humans, however, are at a much greater risk of this condition, so it is important to learn what you can about Lyme disease even if you only have cats.

Are there Vaccines for Lyme Disease in Cats?

No, there is no current vaccine for cats against Lyme disease. There is a vaccine to protect dogs from this illness, however, and it is important to keep up with this vaccination for the health of your canine family members.

For cats, simply try to prevent your cat from going outdoors if possible. If your cat does go outside, use a cat-safe insect repellant to prevent the risk of ticks, and keep up with regular flea medication to cut down on these risks, too. Check your cat regularly and remove any ticks immediately.

In Conclusion

With the help of this information, you should be able to better understand how Lyme disease affects dogs and humans versus how little it seems to affect cats. Although it is extremely unlikely for a cat to develop Lyme disease, it is still possible under very specific circumstances, so it pays to recognize the signs and symptoms of this problem in cats as well.

If you know your cat has been recently bitten by a tick and especially if you know that tick is a type that carries Lyme disease, you may want to have them checked out by the veterinarian just to be sure. However, keep in mind that Lyme disease is almost never going to be the underlying cause of any of your cat’s health symptoms, and your vet will likely not suspect this condition in your cat either. While dogs and humans should be careful during tick season, cats are much less likely to experience serious diseases spread by the bite of a tick.

Book an appointment online at any of our Heart + Paw locations to talk with your veterinarian about Lyme Disease and your pets.

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Heart + Paw was founded in 2018 by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. George Melillo, who currently serves the Mid-Atlantic area. Heart + Paw offers a combination of veterinary care, pet grooming, and dog daycare to help be a resource in your pet parenthood journey.

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