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Cat Fact: Cats Can Get Lyme Disease

Beware, cats can get Lyme disease. It’s not common, but it does happen.

If a cat goes outside, even in the city, it can come in contact with a tick which can embed itself underneath the skin. With last year’s mild winter, Lyme disease – mostly caused by deer ticks, also called the black legged tick – is on the increase. And while there are no set statistics on the number of pets infected, shelters and vets do see Lyme in cats.

By nature, cats are fastidious groomers, and by being so, they remove most ticks. They do not want that creature on them, so they bite and lick till it comes off. Cats also have a different immune system than dogs or humans, and they tend to fend off the disease better. If there’s a tiny bump underneath the skin, go to the vet and have the tick removed.

Early signs mimic rheumatoid arthritis, like a lame paw. Other symptoms include joint pain and swelling, fever, loss of appetite, dehydration, lethargy and swollen lymph nodes.

Because symptoms are very general, it is possible that it will be misdiagnosed. A Lyme test is the only way to be sure because the first visible signs may be several weeks or months after becoming infected.
According to Maine’s Inland Fisheries & Wildlife website, www.maine.gov/ifw/. the disease is caused by a bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi transmitted to animals when they are bitten by an infected tick (Ixodes scapularis). Adult ticks are most common in the fall, but hungry nymphs emerge in early spring. As the climate warms Maine’s tick season arrives earlier and lasts longer. In addition, expanding residential and commercial development has increased interaction between deer, humans and pets. Grassy areas close to woodlands where deer roam are particularly problematic. The American Lyme Disease Foundation’s website, also has a lot of information about the disease.

When the Lyme test comes back positive, the vet will recommend a course of antibiotics. Also consider using a natural homeopathic remedy to support the red blood cells and liver. But don’t use natural remedies exclusively. Always see your vet immediately if you suspect Lyme disease.

The best way to deal with Lyme disease is prevention. CatChannel.com and petplace.com suggest using a flea, tick nontopical treatment on a monthly basis. Check with your vet to suggest what they think will work best and keep your kitty, happy and healthy. More information about cats and Lyme disease can be found here.