Cats Getting Lyme Disease from Deer Ticks

Lyme disease in cats

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I believe it is that time of year when the possibility of a cat getting Lyme disease from a tick is greater. In this instance, by the way, I am mainly referring to the USA where, as I understand it, the chances of a cat getting Lyme disease are possibly greater. Although, Lyme disease is present in Europe. There are 2,000 to 3,000 cases of Lyme disease in the UK annually. I don’t think there are records on the number of cats getting Lyme disease in either the UK or USA.

Right away, it is worth mentioning that, with respect to the USA, Lyme disease has become more prevalent in north-eastern and Midwestern US. On the East Coast, I’m referring to the area between Pennsylvania and New Brunswick. I’m also referring to the area immediately to the west of the great Lakes, primarily Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Lyme disease is also prevalent on the East Coast (to Lake Michigan) of the state of Michigan.

The reason why I’m referring to Lyme disease today is because I know an American whose cat contracted Lyme disease from a deer tick. This person does not live in the areas I have described but further south. It was a very serious matter.

I just believe it is important to be aware of this disease because it is actually a serious disease and it can put the life of one’s cat in jeopardy. I have a feeling that it is underestimated with regard to its danger.

The cat concerned would normally have to be an indoor/outdoor cat (or perhaps a person can walk a deer tick into the home). It does seem, however, to be quite easy for a cat to pick up a tick and let’s not forget that it can be very hard to notice a deer tick attached to a cat. Deer ticks are much smaller than a blood tick. That makes them very hard to see in a cat’s fur.

Ticks to not run and jump like a flea. They are part of the same species as spiders and they scuttle around. They climb up grass and plants and hold out their legs to sense the presence of a passing animal. When a warm blooded animal passes by they crawl onto it. Then they begin feeding.

In feeding they transmit a type of bacteria to the cat. The bacteria is part of the Borrelia burgdorferi group. This bacteria causes Lyme disease.

The most obvious symptom of Lyme disease in cats is lameness due to inflammation of the joints. The cat will be lethargic and lose appetite. More seriously, it seems to me, cats can develop kidney failure which results in vomiting, diarrhoea, lack of appetite, weight loss and also increased urination and thirst.

Other symptoms include: a stiff walk with an arched back, sensitivity to the touch, difficulty in breathing, fever, possible heart abnormalities and nervous system complications.

You can see that the possible health problems caused by Lyme disease in cats are extensive. This is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease. The possibilities of a cat catching it should be eliminated if possible.

For outdoor control of ticks the suggestion is that tall grass, weeds and brush should be cut down. In addition the recommendation is to treat premises with an insecticide preparation and I’m sure a veterinarian can advise on that.

Other diseases are transmitted by other species of tick. This page discusses removing a blood tick.

Photo credit: main photo by Jerry Kirkhart

5 thoughts on “Cats Getting Lyme Disease from Deer Ticks”

  1. Very grateful that this isn’t a huge problem here.
    Not so many deer; some in the national forest. But rarely here.

  2. Actually Lyme Disease has been prevalent in Europe for a LONG time. It is extremely serious.

    I contracted Lyme Disease in 1989 while accompanying my horse vet on rounds. Our county was ripe with ticks carrying the bacteria (spirochete) and I was extremely careful, but this day I guess I was not aware of a tick that glued itself to my belly.

    I became sick with a “flu” like illness several days later, but gave it little thought. I developed the bulls-eye rash and while the symptoms abated- I was left confused, memory shot, and very upset.

    It took over two years for me to be diagnosed. My horse vet actually was the one who diagnosed me using one of his horse “tests” and let me know that I was majorly positive.

    But its not only deer that carry the ticks. White footed mice and birds also carry them. Not all ticks are infected with the spirochete, but those that are are extremely dangerous.

    There is a vaccine for dogs- (don’t know much about its effectiveness) but there is no vaccine for cats. There was but it turned out not to work and caused major side-effect in cats. It was removed from the market.

    Not only can Lyme cause the problems that Michael listed, it can cause serious heart conditions, and major emotional problems.

    There is no vaccine for humans either.

    • Thank you Jo for your added, valuable, information on this nasty disease. I wrote the post because I have a feeling that it is under appreciated. I’m sorry to hear that you contracted Lyme disease yourself. That must have been nasty. I think it can be difficult to diagnose in cats because the symptoms are rather generalised and extensive.


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