Lyme Disease

Causative Agent: This disease is caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Spirochetes are very small microorganisms that are free-living in the environment. Lyme disease can occur in dogs, cats, horses, wild animals, and humans.

Clinical Signs: When compared to dogs or humans, cats seem to have a greater resistance to Lyme disease. While the typical clinical signs of fever, decreased appetite, and lameness can occur in cats infected with Lyme disease, it is usually rare.

Disease Transmission: Lyme disease is spread by one genus of tick, Ixodes. Borrelia burgdorferi lives in the tick and is transmitted to mammals when the tick takes its blood meal. Infections are most common in the summer and fall when tick activity is highest.

Diagnosis: The organism can be detected by performing serology testing on a blood sample collected by a veterinarian.

Treatment: Infected cats with clinical symptoms can be treated for 21-28 days with antibiotics (tetracycline, amoxicillin, or ampicillin at standard doses). Depending on the severity of the disease, supportive care involving pain relievers, rest, and fluids may also be required.

Prevention: Because this disease tends to vary in its geographical distribution, a local veterinarian may be the most useful source of information on prevention. Currently, there are no vaccines available to prevent this disease in cats.

Because the organism is not transmitted immediately when the tick attaches, daily tick removal is very beneficial. Routine treatments with baths, dips, and topical anti-tick products are also very helpful.

Public Health Concerns: Because humans are susceptible to Lyme disease, caution should be used whenever a tick is found on a pet.