A cat rolling around in the grassTick season is upon us. You probably know all about tick borne diseases like Lyme disease that can affect humans and dogs, but if you have a cat that spends time outdoors you may be wondering whether it is a worry for them as well. Thankfully, The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center have the answers for you when it comes to Lyme disease in cats.

Lyme Disease in Cats

Lyme disease, a bacterial infection caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi organism, is known for causing serious disease in us as well as dogs. It is carried by the black-legged, or deer, tick and is endemic in much of the country, including the Midwest.

Once a tick begins to take a blood meal from its host, be it two-legged or four, the infectious bacteria hiding in the tick’s digestive system activates. This takes at least 5 hours of feeding to happen. As the tick feeds, it regurgitates blood from its digestive system, along with the Lyme disease bacteria, back into its host. This results in an infection which results in illness within four weeks of exposure.

Pets who are infected with Lyme disease often show several symptoms including:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lameness
  • Joint swelling

Without treatment, the infection can progress to a more serious form, resulting in complications involving the joints, heart, kidneys, and even brain.

But the question remains:  Is Lyme disease in cats a real concern?

The answer is that while it is very feasible for Lyme disease to infect a cat, no cat has ever been diagnosed with the disease outside of a laboratory setting. There are other tick-borne diseases that can affect cats, however. This makes it wise to do your best to keep kitty tick-free and know the signs of a problem, but feline fans can rest a little easier knowing that their cat is unlikely to be infected with this nasty disease.

Taming the Tick

If your cat goes outdoors, a good parasite preventative plan is imperative. Cat owners who have investigated their options have probably found that good tick control is harder to come by for their cat than for a dog. Cats do not metabolize many of drugs that people and canines are able to use safely for tick control.

Never use a product for tick control in dogs on your cat unless otherwise directed. There are some good options for tick control products that are feline friendly, and we would be happy to help make a recommendation from our pharmacy that would be effective for your individual situation.

It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with how to remove a tick properly should you find one. Because it takes between five and 20 hours for many diseases such as Lyme disease to be transmitted, prompt removal can make a big impact. Get in the habit of doing a good tick search on your cat daily.

Lyme disease and other tick borne diseases can be nasty, but with a good preventative plan and the knowledge about what to look for, dogs and cats respond very well to treatment. Cat owners needn’t lose any sleep over Lyme disease, but being sure to educate yourself is key to a happy, healthy nine lives.