Although pets can’t spread Lyme disease directly to humans, they can carry infected ticks into your home or yard. Regular tick checks and prompt tick removal are just as important for pets as for people.
Sore muscles and joints are the most common symptom of Lyme disease in pets. Some animals may develop a fever or fatigue.
Dogs can be vaccinated against Lyme disease, but the vaccine is relatively new and somewhat controversial.
Most veterinarians only recommend vaccinating dogs that live in tick-infested areas, such as in the Sea to Sky Corridor.
Common symptoms include: arthritis (sudden lameness), pain, fever, lack of appetite, dehydration, inactivity and swollen lymph nodes and joints.
Lyme disease in cats is rare, but not unheard-of. In most cases, Lyme is diagnosed only when an infected-tick is discovered.
Talk to your veterinarian about tick prevention or if you think your pet has Lyme disease.
The disease is spread by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. These ticks are often found in and near areas with trees, shrubs, tall grass or piles of leaves.
Generally, people are infected through the bite of immature ticks called nymphs that are about the size of a poppy seed. Adult ticks (about the size of a sesame seed) can also transmit Lyme disease. Ticks are very small and their bites are usually painless, so you may not know you’ve been bitten.
Although you’re most likely to contract Lyme disease from May through September, it’s possible to be infected year-round — especially if you live in a high-risk area. Infection rates increase in the spring and summer months because the major species of Borrelia-infected ticks are in their nymphal stage, and harder to see.
Once a tick is infected with Borrelia, it remains a carrier until it dies.
What can be done?
* Use bug spray (always follow directions).
* Wear closed-toe shoes, long sleeves and pants.
* Tuck your shirt into your pants, and your pants into your socks.
* Walk on paths.
* Get into the habit of doing a daily full-body tick check on yourself, your children, your pets and your gear.
* Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors.
* Put your clothes in a dryer on high heat for at least 10 minutes.
What should you do if you’re bitten?
* Use clean tweezers to immediately remove attached ticks:
* Grasp the tick’s head as close to your skin as possible.
* Slowly pull it straight out.
* If parts of the tick’s mouth break off and remain in your skin, remove them with the tweezers.
* If you can’t remove the mouthparts, leave them alone, and let your skin heal.
* Wash the bite area thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer.
* Keep the tick in a closed container and bring it with you when you go see your health care provider.
Early detection is key.
Contact your healthcare provider if you’re not feeling well or are concerned after being bitten by a tick.
Cats rarely display their pain, but cats with feline stomatitis are often the exception. If your cat appears to have mouth pain, is reluctant to eat, doesn’t want to groom, is drooling, and doesn’t want you to open its mouth, it may be suffering from this debilitating, degenerative oral condition, and prompt treatment is a must.
Stomatitis refers to an inflammation of the oral mucosa, the mucous membranes that line a cat’s mouth. This layer of cells can become inflamed for a variety of reasons. The more frequent causes of inflammation are gingivitis and periodontal disease. In the case of stomatitis, the exact cause isn’t known, but it is suspected to be an immune-mediated disease. Depending on the extent of lesions, this condition is also called faucitis and caudal mucositis, if the areas in the back of the mouth behind the teeth are affected. Stomatitis affects all breeds of cats, and can occur in any age.
Treatment for oral inflammation depends on the severity of the disease. Milder cases can be treated by having a dental prophylaxis under anesthesia. Once the teeth are cleaned, you may be asked to apply a chlorhexidene gel to help keep the bacteria under control. Taking dental X-rays is important in all these cases as a degeneration of the tooth termed resorption, may occur in the crown or root of the tooth. This resorption can cause pain and inflammation.
More advanced cases of feline stomatitis generally call for extraction of all or a majority of the affected teeth. While this approach might sound extreme, it can also be highly effective at curing the stomatitis altogether, instead of merely keeping it in check. If extractions of the molars and pre-molars doesn’t resolve the problem, further extractions of the canines and incisors very well might. Some cat owners decide to spare their cats a possible future surgery by having these teeth removed with the others. X-rays of the teeth during extraction are critical because any piece of a tooth is left behind, the inflammation will persist.
Your cat’s stomatitis may also involve the bone surrounding the teeth, leading to a condition called osteomyelitis. This is a serious infection of the bone surrounding the teeth which is treated by removing the diseased bone and then allowing healthy tissue to regenerate in its place.
Deforge, D. H., VMD, “One Clinician’s Experience With A New Treatment For Feline Stomatitis,” Veterinary Practice News
Kirby, Naomi, DVM, MS, “Managing Feline Stomatitis,” IVC Journal.
Lews, John, VMD, FAVD, DIPL. AVDC., “Why Teeth Removal is Best When Your Patient Has Feline Stomatitis,” Veterinary Practice News.
Merck Veterinary Manuals, “Oral Inflammatory and Ulcerative Disease in Small Animals.”
Feline leukemia (FeLV) is a virus that weakens your cat’s immune system. Unfortunately, when the immune system does not function properly, your cat may be more likely to develop other diseases, such as cancer and blood disorders.
How Cats Contract Feline Leukemia
Cats get feline leukemia from other cats. The virus is spread in saliva, urine, feces, nasal secretions and milk from nursing mothers. When an infected cat bites or grooms another cat, that cat may develop the virus. If a pregnant cat has feline leukemia, the kittens might be born with the disease or may develop it after nursing. Because kittens have weaker immune systems than older cats, they are more likely to suffer from the virus. Cats can also spread the virus by sharing food dishes or litter boxes; although this does not happen very often.
Symptoms of Feline Leukemia
There may be no symptoms of the disease during the earlier stages. In the later stages, symptoms may be similar to those that are also typical of other types of viruses. Depending on the stage of the disease, a cat infected with feline leukemia may experience:
- Gradual weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Eye disorders
- Pale gums or inflammation of the gums
- Poor coat
- Skin, bladder or upper respiratory tract infections
- Behavioral changes
- Swollen lymph nodes
Diagnosis and Treatment
Feline leukemia is diagnosed via a blood test that detects a protein found in the virus. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease. Many infected cats die within two to three years of being diagnosed. Although there is no treatment for feline leukemia, symptoms can be treated to keep your cat more comfortable. If weight loss is a problem, nutritional supplements will help your cat receive necessary nutrients. Your cat may get sick more often because of his weakened immune system, but these infections can often be treated with antibiotics.
The FeLV vaccine will help prevent your cat from developing feline leukemia, but it does not offer an absolute guarantee that your cat will never get the virus. The best way to protect your furry friend is to keep him or her indoors. When cats roam, they are more likely to come in contact with infected cats that may transmit the virus through a bite.
Before you bring a new pet into your home, make sure that it has been tested for the feline leukemia virus. If one of your cats does develop the virus, separate it from your other cats to prevent the spread of the disease.
Has your cat had an examination and feline leukemia shot recently? If not, give us a call to schedule an appointment.
Nothing must spoil the joys of becoming a new parent. Not even your pets. But family cats with normal, every day habits can pose a risk to expectant women. Women’s immune systems can be disturbed by a parasite carried in fecal matter. If you’re the primary caretaker of your family’s feline friend it may be time to ask for help.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease that can be transmitted from cats to humans by ingestion of undercooked meat products or contact with the stool of a contaminated cat. Toxoplasmosis can cause serious problems during pregnancy.
Cats allowed to roam outdoors are more likely to carry the parasite responsible for the toxoplasmosis infection. They can hunt and kill mice and rats during the nighttime hours. When the rodents are infected with the Toxoplasma parasite, a cat ingesting the diseased rodent can spread this infection through its fecal matter to humans. Pregnant women have an increased sensitivity to the dangers of that contamination.
Cats living in an outdoor environment are also defecating outdoors. They habitually bury their stool in flower beds, gardens and other soft soil areas. Women who are pregnant must be aware that contact with dirt that has been used by an infected cat is also a danger. Keeping cats indoors will eliminate their exposure to potentially infected rodents and decrease your chance of coming into contact with the toxoplasmosis parasite.
“More that 60 million men, women, and children in the U.S. carry the Toxoplasma parasite, but very few have symptoms because the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness,” advises the United States Center for Disease Control. Appropriate testing can help your doctor determine the potential impact on your immune system.
The Center for Disease Control recommends that specific measures be taken to prevent exposure to the toxoplasmosis infection. The CDC’s preventative measures include:
- Avoid changing the cat’s litter yourself whenever possible.
- Wear gloves if you must change it yourself.
- Wash your hands immediately after changing the litter.
- Wear gloves when you are outside gardening, planting flowers, vegetables, weeding or in contact with soil that could be a potential source of contamination.
- Keep litter boxes outside your home covered.
- Delegate changing the cat’s litter to another family member.
- Change the litter on a daily basis because the parasite is most infectious in just-eliminated fecal matter for at least the first five days.
- Keep Fluffy or Garfield inside your house, apartment or condo throughout your pregnancy.
- Wear gloves and/or wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meats.
“The risk to the baby increases the later in the pregnancy the new infection is acquired,” says Michael Richards, DVM. Check in with your veterinarian early in your pregnancy to ensure a healthy infant.
The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery confirms that feline emotional wellbeing, behavior and physical health are a result of how comfortable they are in their environment. Understanding how our cats interact with their environment can help us create a space for owners and cats to mutually thrive together. Not only does your feline’s wellness rely on her environmental conditions, but also on social interaction between humans.
Indoor Vs. Outdoor
Should you keep your cat strictly indoors or allow it to go outside? Several national associations of veterinarians advocate that domestic cats be kept inside for their health, safety, and the safety of surrounding native wildlife. Pet cats that are allowed to roam freely outdoors are subject to many dangers including, but not limited to:
• Attacks from other animals
• Possible human cruelty
• Poisons, traps
• Feline-specific diseases
• Zoonotic diseases
Often cat owners that allow their cats to roam outdoors are surprised to find that their cat is continually crossing major streets and roaming far beyond their immediate neighborhood. Lastly, allowing cats to roam outdoors affects the surrounding native wildlife populations. While owned cats do not hunt animals for survival, they will kill and maim animals based on instinct. This predation can have a significant impact on rodent and bird species.
Creating an Enriched Indoor Environment
Without an investment in enriching the indoor environment, indoor cats can suffer boredom from predictability, stress, and obesity from inactivity. This is especially true if your cat was once an outdoor cat and you’ve transitioned him to an indoor-only pet. The best solution to prevent any of these issues is to give indoor cats what they need to thrive:
• Keep a litter tray in a private area. Be sure to clean regularly, removing eliminations daily, so cats will not be reluctant to use the box. Indoor cats will improperly eliminate or hold a bowel movement for days if they feel uncomfortable in their space. Avoid a potential health issue by keeping it clean.
• While an indoor environment may be perceived as safer, be sure to carefully place potentially toxic house plants and lock cabinets with cleaning supplies. We know how curious cats can be- they’ll try to get inside anything left slightly ajar.
• Provide a scratching post or climbing wall, balls, feathers, or other play toys. Some cats like catnip, and this can be placed inside toys. Cats love to be up high, some people build walkways, close to the ceiling, around a room. Keep your feline busy, and you’ll be their main companion.
• Be sure to check crawl spaces, attics, washer and dryers, dishwashers and refrigerators before and after use.
• Consider getting them a companion. At first, felines may be reluctant to welcome another cat, but over time most thrive due to the interaction.
For those cats who refuse to be a strictly indoor cat, there are things you can do to help protect them when outside. If you have a solid backyard fence, you can build an overhang at the top of the fence with piping and netting. The overhang should be about two feet long, and project inward at about a 45 degree angle, so the cat can not jump over the fence, and it also makes it harder for another cat to jump into your yard. If you do not have a solid back yard fence, you can build an enclosed patio space so the cats have access from the house.
Ellis, SL; Rodan, I; Carney, HC; Rochiltz, I; Shearburn, LD; Sundahl, E; and Westropp, JL. “AAFP and ISFM Feline Environmental Needs Guidelines.” Journal of Feline Medical Surgery, March 2013.
American Humane Association, “Indoor Cats vs. Outdoor Cats.”
American Association of Feline Practitioners. “Confinement of Owned Indoor Cats Position Statement.” 2007.