Tuesday 15 July 2014

Is Lyme Disease Keeping Cats inside?

Lyme Disease in Cats (reinforcing an indoor lifestyle)

Is the fear that their cat might get Lyme disease from the deer tick encouraging people to keep their cats indoors all the time, in America and in some parts of the UK?

Lyme disease is found in the north-east of America and much less commonly down the eastern half of America and also on the West Coast.

Sources:American Lyme Disease Foundation & Yale School of Public Health – 2012

So the risk is quite high in the north-east of America. Lyme disease affects people and pets who go outside and walk in woodlands and grasslands where the deer tick sits and waits before jumping onto a host and then in sucking on the blood of the host they inject into the host a bacteria creating a bacterial infection in the host which causes quite severe symptoms.

Although the symptoms are rather vague and sometimes non-existent making diagnosis more difficult. A loss of appetite, fatigue, tiredness and fever are some of the symptoms but the most prominent is stiff and painful joints which cause the cat to walk stiffly. The cat is lame and surely this must be a predominant symptom which helps cat owner and veterinarian alike to diagnose this disease.

It is possible that veterinarians sometimes fail to diagnose this disease and quite possibly simply prescribe a course of antibiotics as a general treatment; in other words they treat the symptoms. On other occasions they may inadvertently create a fear of lyme disease in cats which encourages people to keep their cats inside, full-time. I'm not sure how prevalent it is. You can tell from the map that across a large swathe of America, lyme disease is non-existent and very rare in the whole of the eastern part of the country except for in the North on either side of the great Lakes.

The map is obviously very important because if a veterinarian is going to warn their client to keep their cat in, it should relate directly to where they live. In any event I've always believed that a well constructed cat enclosure or catio is an excellent compromise in allowing a cat to sense the outdoors while remaining safe. If a cat is carrying a tick, if it is removed in the right manner within about 10 to 18 hours of the tick feeding on the cat then the transmission of the disease is prevented.

On that basis, it makes sense to check a cat when he or she returns from the outside if they are roaming in high-risk areas. This page deals with removing a tick. Ticks should be removed with care and it may be necessary for a veterinarian to do it.

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