Lyme disease is among the most common tick-transmitted diseases globally, although it is rare in cats. The condition is caused by a bacteria spirochete species belonging to the Borrelia burgdorferi genus.
The most common clinical symptom in cats is lameness due to joint inflammation, a loss of appetite, and lethargy.
Some cats develop kidney problems, as well as heart and nervous system problems.
Types and Symptoms
Many cats with Lyme disease have no signs or symptoms at all. Those that do can experience chronic limb lameness due to joint inflammation.
Meanwhile, some can experience acute lameness that lasts three to four days but returns days to weeks later, along with lameness in the same leg or other legs.
This disease, also known as “shifting-leg lameness,” is characterised by:
- Lameness in one leg followed by a return to normal function in another leg
- One or more joints may become swollen and warm
- Feeling the joint elicits a pain response
Kidney problems may occur in some cats. If left untreated, it could lead to glomerulonephritis, a condition in which the kidney’s glomeruli becomes inflamed and dysfunctional.
Total kidney failure eventually sets in, with symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, weight loss, increased urination and thirst, fluid accumulation in the abdomen, and fluid buildup in the tissues, especially the legs under the skin.
Some signs and symptoms of Lyme disease include:
- A stiff stroll with an arched back
- Touch sensitivity
- Breathing problems
- Inflammation of the joints can be accompanied by fever, a lack of appetite, and depression.
- Swollen lymph nodes near the site of the infecting tick bite are possible.
- Total heart block is one of the most common heart disorders recorded.
- Nervous system problems (rare)
Borrelia burgdorferi (the bacteria which causes Lyme disease) is spread by deer ticks that eat slowly and have a hard shell.
After the Borrelia-carrying tick has attached itself to the cat for at least 18 hours, infection usually occurs.
You’ll need to include a detailed overview of your cat’s health, including a background history of symptoms and any events that could have triggered this illness, such as where your cat has been. Your veterinarian can tell from your medical records which organs are being damaged secondarily.
A complete blood profile, including a chemical blood profile, a total blood count, and a urinalysis, will be performed. Your veterinarian can use these tests to check for bacteria, parasites, and fungi in the bloodstream. It’s also possible to draw fluid from the damaged joints for testing.
The state of the skin around the tick bite site, such as whether the wound is still open or whether there are any remnants of the tick’s body left in the wound, can be a significant measure of your cat’s health.
There are many causes of arthritis, and your veterinarian will concentrate on distinguishing Lyme disease-induced arthritis from other inflammatory arthritic disorders like trauma.
Immune-mediated conditions will also be considered a potential cause of the symptoms, and the doctor will check the bones for injury or illness using an x-ray of the sore joints.
When your cat’s health condition is severe, your cat will be treated as an outpatient for Lyme disease. There are a variety of antibiotics to choose from. It would help if you kept your cat warm and comfortable, and you will need to monitor its behaviour until the clinical signs have improved.
The recommended treatment duration is four weeks. Dietary modifications are unlikely to be recommended by your veterinarian. Pressure relievers can only be used if the veterinarian has prescribed them.
Unfortunately, certain animals’ signs do not always go away entirely. Even after the bacteria has been completely removed from your cat’s system, long-term joint pain can persist.
Living and Management
Within three to five days of antibiotic therapy, the sudden (acute) inflammation of the joints triggered by Borrelia should improve. If your pet’s health does not improve within three to five days, your doctor will need to make a new diagnosis.
If at all possible, keep your cat away from tick-infested areas where Lyme borreliosis is widespread. Your veterinarian will prescribe a range of sprays, collars, and spot-on topical items to kill and repel ticks, in addition to brushing your cat regularly and manually removing ticks.
Such things can only be used under the guidance of a veterinarian and following the label’s instructions.