Symptoms and Signs of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world, and it is not restricted to exclusively infecting humans. In fact, both dogs and cats can also contract the disease.

Scientifically known as borreliosis, this disease is caused by exposure to a spirochete type of bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, and the primary carrier of B. burgdorferi is the common deer tick. Lyme disease can be found in many parts of the country, including the Northeast, the Midwest, and the Western parts of the United States, although the Northeast has the highest prevalence of the disease.

What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs?

In most cases of Lyme disease infection among canines, the symptoms don’t start presenting themselves until well after the initial tick bite has occurred. Often, clinical symptoms won’t show up until two to five months after exposure.

The most common symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include lameness and fatigue, a loss of appetite, a fever of between 103 and 105 degrees, swelling in the joints, and swollen lymph nodes. In some cases, Lyme disease can cause kidney disease, heart problems, or nervous system disorders, although these are rare occurrences.

What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Cats?

Although Lyme disease is not as commonly found in cats as it is in dogs, felines are certainly not immune to the disease. And for those that do have Lyme Disease, it is not uncommon for symptoms to never present themselves. In such cases, a cat may live for years without her owner ever having a suspicion that something might be wrong with the animal.

When symptoms do present themselves, however, they tend to be similar to those experienced by dogs, including lethargy, swelling in the joints, a loss of appetite, and general lameness. Other potential signs and symptoms of Lyme disease include walking with a stiff or arched back, having difficulty breathing, sensitivity to touch, fever, and swollen lymph nodes near the location where the tick bite occurred.

Occasionally, an infected cat may suffer a three to four day period of acute lameness in one or more of her legs, after which she will usually bounce back to her usual normal function.

And also just as in dogs, Lyme disease can sometimes cause kidney disease, heart disease, or nervous system diseases in cats, although these conditions are equally rare.

What Is the Prognosis for Animals With Lyme Disease? 

Lyme disease is usually not fatal for dogs and cats, as long as treatment is administered early on in the disease’s development, and well before it has a chance to affect the kidney, heart, or nervous system of the animal. In most cases, a four-week round of antibiotics will prove effective in the fight against the bacteria.

Most pets will start showing noticeable improvement in their mobility within three to five days after starting the antibiotic treatment, as the inflammation in their joints starts to become reduced. If your pet doesn’t show signs of improvement after five days of treatment, then the veterinarian may want to re-examine her for a possible different diagnosis.

Lyme Disease Prevention Tips for Your Pets

In order for a dog or cat to become infected by B. burgdorferi, the infected tick must be attached to the pet for approximately 48 hours. If you’re able to remove the tick or if it should die before 48 hours have passed, then the chance of infection in the animal is very slim.

For this reason, you should groom your pet daily and remove any tick at the moment of discovery. Other solutions for preventing Lyme disease in your pet include vaccinations, and tick control products and topical insecticides.

Author: Giano Panzarella